In Dubious Battle


Full Disclosure: I have been a union leader in one form or another for my entire adult life.  However, that doesn’t mean that I recommend watching all films that advocate for the rights of working people.  Take, for example, Bread and Roses and Harlan County War.  Politically, both films are spot-on.  But they fail aesthetically, which makes them little more than lefty propaganda.  In Dubious Battle, on the other hand, holds up in both political and aesthetic terms.  Why?  Because, like John Sayles’s Matewan, In Dubious Battle provides a vivid portrayal of a volatile situation and a realistic representation of the toll that situation takes upon complicated, engaging, well-acted characters.  And whereas Norman Jewison’s F.I.S.T and Danny DeVito’s Hoffa trace a single character’s (rather obvious) arc from “idealistic organizer” to “corrupt boss,” Matewan and In Dubious Battle are truer to their subject, for just as the Labor Movement is about collective action, Matewan and In Dubious Battle are about communities (not individuals) under siege by greed.  James Franco did an admirable job directing a film that’s well worth the watch.


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