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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Taking Liberties [2007] [DVD]
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 June 2011
A very disquieting documentary about the gradual leaching away of civil
rights under Tony Blair.

Always interesting and entertaining, and occasionally deeply

Yet for me it just misses greatness through it's one-sided arguments
that sometimes feel a bit forced, without acknowledgment that
it represents a personal view point.

The difference between someone blatantly, admitting 'this is my
perspective', as a film-maker like Michael Moore does, and this film's
pretense at 'objectivity' makes it a bit harder to take, and somehow
less affecting than films that are more honest that they are stating
(in this case quite effectively) a specific point-of-view.

None-the-less, I'd re-watch this, and I'm sure I'd enjoy it again,
and learn more. An important film about just how fragile democracy is.
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on 25 May 2008
An interesting book whose premise is that Democracy is something that your children will read about in a book (if they're allowed to) and by the end of it, you may be inclined to agree.
Successive Labour party apparatchiks are squandering 800 years of hard won rights for the common man and want you to lay down your freedoms for your lives where past generations laid down their lives for your freedoms. As Benjamin Franklin said "those who give up their Liberty for temporary security, deserve neither". Those liberties survived the Second World War, the Cold War and thirty years of IRA terrorism, but are under sustained assault epitomised by a quote from Tony Blair (a lawyer) boasting that civil liberties were made for another age and who feels that you can give up your freedoms to somehow become more free.
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, for example, blurs the distinction between what is wrong and what is illegal, giving the police a broad raft of powers, which if improperly applied may not amount to living in a police state, but certainly lays the foundation for one, allowing the people to be punished before the courts have decided what laws have been broken (i.e. being handed over to another state's jurisdiction without due evidence of a crime being committed). The drive to change the relationship between the State, its servants and the people can be best summed up by a quote by Thomas Jefferson, " when the people fear the government, there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty." That they must fear us and desire to control us is the persuasive message this book sends out.
One is reminded of the climax of Animal Farm as much as of 1984. Having done everything that is asked of them, the animals are found peering in through the window and realising that they have been betrayed by those who promised to safeguard their liberty.
Is the future Stasi Britain (only more inept when it comes to safeguarding the data filched from its citizens)? You decide. After all, Democracy is more than just casting your vote every few years
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on 5 August 2007
I saw this at the cinema and would urge all who value such rights as freedom of speech, habeus corpus, right to protest and privacy as fundamentals of British society to watch this film. Director Chris Atkins reveals how laws passed in recent years have eroded these and other rights, through the use of animation, personal testimonies and some informed commentary.
In spite of the subject matter, the film does not drag and entertains. And it is both reassuring and amusing to see the very ordinary, yet very special heroes in this film, standing up for our rights in the most British of ways. They are brave folk, but do nothing that the rest of us couldn't do too, if we could only get off our backsides..
This film will make you angry, sad, frustrated, and probably shock you - it means to. Its aim is to wake us all up, before it is too late, and all our liberties have been taken away.
Buy it, watch it, inflict in on all who know you - and then get them to do the same!
Incidentally, the excellent soundtrack is available on cd and a percentage goes to Amnesty.
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on 16 October 2007
Peter Bradshaw
Friday June 8, 2007
The Guardian

It may not tell us much that's new, but there's something exhilarating about this thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile docu-blast against Tony Blair's insidious diminution of native British liberties. Director Chris Atkins shows how, since 1997, New Labour's residual passion for ideology, combined with a fear of looking Spartist or soft on terror, has combined to deliver a panic-stricken abandonment of liberties that we'd somehow held on to in the face of Nazi Germany and the IRA.

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Some pundits may find it deficient in sophistication or the fence-sitting neutrality of good taste; for me it was a vitamin-boost of scepticism. Cheerful, polemical and tactless, Atkins's film raises a celebratory glass to the spirit of British awkwardness and bloody-mindedness, the dissident spirit that infuses both the anti-war protesters and the Countryside Alliance - Mark Thomas and Boris Johnson alike. "What about Magna Carta?" demands Tony Hancock in a nicely chosen clip. "Did she die in vain?" In the strangest way, Hancock is the tutelary deity behind many of the English protesters here: very often elderly and apolitical souls who feel they have earned the right not to be bullied by the macho-menopausal apparatchiks of the Blair/Brown succession.
It is an old story. Mr Blair was once ferociously against ID cards, and now he loves them. He once regaled audiences with anecdotes, combined with bittersweet shrugs, to the effect that protesters yelled nasty things at him as he was driven into Westminster in his official car, but gosh, how wonderful to live in a country where folk are free to shout nasty things. Now he feels he can and will live without these protesters. He is an enthusiast for increasing detention without charge, for the vast internment camp at Guantánamo Bay. And this trained barrister is not straining his forensic and analytic abilities to investigate the mounting circumstantial evidence that extraordinary rendition flights are stopping off at Manchester and Prestwick.

September 11 was the key event - and yet the Anglo-American crackdown on radical Islamic terrorism is, in the oddest way, not the most powerful moment in the movie. That honour goes to the case of the NatWest Three: three British bankers accused of white-collar fraud by the American authorities and extradited there with no evidence presented to the British CPS. Our submission to US rule on 9/11 issues simply encouraged America to believe that its writ extends beyond its borders on any and every other issue.

Atkins captures pungent moments of low comedy. A police-protected bailiff is captured thrusting court orders at protesters with a jolly cry of "Served!" Later, a protester is shown trying to turn the tables, stuffing a revised court order into the hands of a policeman who is humiliated and angered beyond any rational measure by this casting-the-runes manoeuvre. He insists the man take the document back and threatens to nick him for littering.

It all makes for a shabby and abject story, a paradoxical tale of weakness from a political generation from which 10 years ago we expected such strength and self-belief. They are still in deep denial; we are waking up.
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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2008
This documentary has been attacked as one-sided and partisan. There is certainly no doubt that it passionately argues a case rather than presenting both sides of the argument without making judgement.
Yet it is difficult to see how any rational person without a vested interest could argue against the principal charge that our traditional rights and freedoms are under threat.

The scaffold on which are freedom is to be sacrificed is being erected plank by plank as this documentary details. First our right of protest is being restricted. New laws and worrying application of civil injunctions together with draconian actions and 'in-your face' surveillance by an increasing politicised police force.

Second, rights stemming from the Magna Carta are being removed. Detention without trial in our country in the form of tagging and house imprisonment and a blind-eye to US torture and detention in places like Guantanamo.

How do our leaders justify all this? They talk of public protection and defending democracy. The documentary, however, makes the case that we are not considerably safer but we are a lot less free as a result. One also is led to wonder if we would need all this 'protection' if we had a more reasonable and equitable approach to Muslim and Arab countries. Tony Blair knew that an occupation of Iraq would lead to an increase in terrorism. We have known for years that a slavish anti-Palestinian policy creates ill-will. Yet the same people who have created the problem now offer to protect us from the consequences - at a price!

This documentary holds your attention and serves to warn us all of the Police State that we may slide into. The most damning part of the documentary isn't the graphics, the interviewees or the commentary. It is the clips of Blair standing silent next to Bush as he lies about Guantanamo, the evasive performance of Jack Straw when questioned about torture and Blunkett in the Commons justifying his illiberal policies. It also shows ordinary folk exercising good sense and standing-up for their rights and those of their passive and silent fellow citizens. Far from being depressing it is inspiring - a clarion call to defend our hard-won rights.
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on 6 April 2011
This film is very informative, giving details of how the Blair Government changed the whole of Britain's laws and essentially turning us in to a Police State by default. It does not entertain any conspiricy theory at all, instead relying on facts, witness and victim testimony, and very slick animation to show the laws that were passed and the historical precedent that had been set by other governments. The bonus features are great, the extended interviews give more detail if you want it and are just as entertaining (especially Boris Johnson talking wiffle and sense at the same time). I would reccomend anyone in Britain to buy this DVD as it shows how our rights were systematically stripped by a supposedly 'liberal' party government, I would love to see this film maker do more on what has happened under Brown and what is happening under the ConDem(nable) coalition. Overall great, not as funny as i thought it would be, but hugely fascinating, entertaining and informative.
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on 18 February 2008
I actually bought the CD soundtrack to this movie last year, long before I recently saw the film on DVD, and was not sure what to expect from the movie. Was it just Fahrenheit 9/11 in drag, or something new and original with a message all its own?

I needn't have wondered: this film is fantastic -- and long overdue. This focus of this important documentary work by director Chris Atkins focuses on the loss of civil rights, privacy and legal protection by British citizens in particular, with the filmmakers carefully avoiding the 'talking head model' of TV documentary in favor of interviewing common people who are on the front lines of defending those rights in British society.

That said, though, the same loss of liberties has been happening to the citizens of other countries whose governments have been blindly supporting the so-called 'war on terrorism'. One can only hope that the makers of Taking Liberties will see fit to give this movie Japanese subtitles and screen it over here in Japan, where the loss of civil liberties since 9/11 in some ways is worse than in Britain.

And then there are the extras. Taking Liberties, like most British independent documentary DVDs, has lots and lots of great extras that complement the interviews in the cinema version and strengthen the film's basic premise. You definitely get your money's worth here.

Merely the 'U.K.'s answer to Fahrenheit 9/11'? Far from it. Taking Liberties is an artistic masterpiece of social commentary that stands on its own, with an important message at the end of the film about who really has the power to change things in society. So ignore all the critics and detractors of this film (wink, wink), and buy this DVD and share it with everyone you know. Tony Blair, for one, will *not* be glad that you did.
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on 19 October 2007
I watched this on the cinema, and was very surprised to find a well made, well needed film about the state of the growing government in the UK.
This films documents the Right to protest,Free speech,Privacy,Detention without Trial,Extradition,Torture-- These illegal acts and laws of rights that are being eroded everyday, thanks to the False Flag Terrorism hoax (do a wikipedia search if not familiar) we have today. You will see why many of these laws must not be past for security of a fair trial and rights that you have had for over 1000 years. A real eye-opener for the newly discovered but not too myself and many other researchers into this growing problem. Take a look, you will be awakened.
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VINE VOICEon 8 November 2009
Beginning with a gripping animation and narration with a sequence that reminded me of the animations from 'The Wall,' spreading pools of blood, broken symbols, doves being throttled by hawks, the film reminds of the Reichstag fire and the subsequent decrees with which Hitler accelerated the terrors of the regime. These decrees, the film tells us, are similar to those brought in by Tony Blair in his Anti-Terror legislation, and the logical continuation of them is a fascist state with end results similar to that of Hitler's Germany. This is an audacious and some would say very offensive claim, and it's the job of the film to persuade us of its truth.

When I try and dismiss the claims of the film as absurd, dark reminders come. We aren't likely to invade Poland but did we not invade Iraq? It's nonsense to say that there is a masterplan to a fascist state but are not the freedoms and safeguards being eroded by carelessness and mendacity? Could we stumble into the nightmare of fascism because of the vain gloriousness of Blair?

The sneaking fears, all the things that prompted my "maybe it's just me" dislike for the Blair regime at the time, are here in this film, and I'm reminded that it's not just me, but countless others, who protested on the run up to the Iraq invasion and who protest today.

The film is an effective montage of talking heads that will be familiar to anyone politically engaged against New Labour; Mark Thomas, comedian, Henry Porter who engaged Blair directly in the Observer in a debate on civil liberties, Michael Mansfield QC, Tony Benn, and others say what you would pretty much expect them to say. The real power of the film lies in its power to bring things into focus, maybe not even directly, but just by having them as recurring themes or images in the film. One example of this is the inter-generational nature of protest against Blair and his politics. Older people remember and see the danger, warn the young and take up their placards. The young whose instinct it is to rebel,and the keen sense that their world and futures are getting messed up, join the fray.
Another recurring feeling was the shock at seeing events I was familiar with indirectly presented full on i.e. the ejection of the stalwart Labour Party member for shouting "nonsense" during Conference. He really was menaced and threatened, you see it.
And the film does serve a true educative function. It's scenes on the effects of house arrest and how that works (on someone who would seem to be innocent of the "Ricin Plot" were enlightening and disturbing.
Young Muslims are interviewed and you can't escape the impression that the best recruitment tool the terrorists ever had was the politics of New Labour.
The use of music and animations are necessary to make the film work as cinema and don't glamourise, trivialise or obscure the message. This is a worthy addition of the "shockumentary" genre and definitely worth your time. Watch it while you still can...
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on 3 February 2011
A very informative and thorough book. It unfortunately confirmed my worst fears as I helplessly watch Tony Blear and his cohorte dismantle our excellent laws and remove our liberty bit by bit.
All that good and far sighted men thoughout the ages had put in place to prevent likely despots from harassing their fellow men.... Being replaced by ever increasing repressive new laws.

It was such depressing reading though that I did not finish it. Well worth reading. Plus it proves that so many people were not wrong and hysterical when decrying the systematic hooliganism and plunder of Labour since 1997 to their final demise in the last general election.
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