Taking Liberties (3 stars)

  • The List
  • 4 June 2007

(12A) 105min


The much touted idea of the outgoing Prime Minister’s ‘legacy’ seems to have divided people of common sense - he was a myopic zealot who believed what he wanted to against established fact, or a cynical and deceitful manipulator with a neocon agenda. It’s plain that director Chris Atkins falls into the latter camp.

His film, which ranges far and wide in its examination of the most dramatic erosion of civil liberties since their temporary suspension for part of the Second World War brings in some pretty well-established facts about the record number of new criminal and civil offences created over the last decade, and combines them with some dramatic bits of footage. Among these snippets are groups of peace activists denied access to various apparently public spaces, and bits of amusing animation depicting such events as the Magna Carta rendered irrelevant by recent legislation. Identity cards, which have never prevented a terrorist from detonating a bomb in any country that has them, but seem more a device to take a speculum to innocent people’s personal and financial lives, is a particular bugbear, while one way extradition agreements with the US and extraordinary renditions are also featured.

If some of the material used is familiar to folk interested in civil liberties, the film, which is comical at times, but not as funny as it thinks it is, might be an eye opener to folk not normally interested in such matters. So too, there are a far wider range of passionately interested interviewees than you might expect. If Mark Thomas, Tony Benn and Shami Chakrabarti are to be anticipated, the likes of Boris Johnson and Kenneth Clark, who both express concern about the issues raised that seems to transcend the usual Punch and Judy stuff, mark this piece out with a certain balance.

(Steve Cramer)

Cameo, Edinburgh and selected cinemas, Fri 8 Jun.

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