on May 4, 2004
The Siege realistically portrays what the government is capable of under such extreme circumstances. Enveloped in a collective paranoid terror, citizens of New York City crouch and drop to the ground at the sound of a bus backfiring. The government responds by declaring martial law and breaking regulations: First, the US Army cannot be used against the American people, and second, the government cannot legally invade the privacy of its citizens. Although this movie was before the Patriot Act, which allows law enforcement agencies to gather information from emails and cell phones, the extent to which the Army goes in The Siege is far beyond the tenets of the Patriot Act.
Anyway, it is a great movie, and I cannot see why someone would find this movie racist. The Arab citizens are portrayed as normal people just like everybody else, and just because a movie contains a scene in which Arabs are sent to internment camps (en masse) does not mean that the creater of the film believes that this is correct.
As for the acting, every role was played superbly, although Elise was not very convincing...
And, in response to the person who said that they never really said why the terrorist cells were attacking, here is the answer, which anyone who is really paying attention should be able to grasp:
The U.S. secretly kidnaps a Muslim religious leader, which sparks terrorist attacks on the city of New York.
on February 26, 2004
I was expecting this to be, possibly like most, an action packed/explosive, short on storyline, film... But I was utterly surprised by it.
In my opinion, this film could only be deemed a propoganda piece if you do not believe or have no hope that someone with the same calibre as the Denzel Washington character exists today.
The messages throughout are captivating and believeable and are articulated without being overbearing, even though the film itself is a bit loud.
I was drawn to Tony Shalhoub's character far more than Denzel Washington's. He was far more interesting and superbly played by Mr Shalhoub; though Denzel Washington puts in another excellent performance in this film; as does Bruce Willis (and he is not a favourite of mine) Annette Bening was excellent as the CIA agent and her character left me wondering just how far she allowed her ideals control the decisions she made.
I would recommend this film to fans of Tony Shalhoub and Denzel Washington any day.
on January 25, 2004
One night, I was at a friends' sleepover and his family got a brand-new DVD player (keep in mind, this was a few years ago when DVD players started selling like the bubonic plague...) and they bought a few DVDs that we were going to watch. The first one we happened to watch was 1998's "The Siege," starring Denzel Washington and directed by the talented Edward Zwick, best known for directing the epic "Glory," which also starred Washington, and the recent "Last Samurai." Both were grand epics with a moving story and a grand dose of acting talent and beautiful visuals. Now, "The Siege" is a different kind of film, but with the talent involved, this movie fell below my expectations.
Washington stars as "Hub," an FBI agent leading a team in finding the terrorists responsible for a series of bombings in New York. They often refer to them as "cells," which I am assuming as groups or an organization of some type; the film is never really clear what a "cell" is. Tony Shalhoub plays Frank, FBI partner and an American of Arab descent, and also feels threatened by the United States when The President sends a crazed general (Bruce Willis) to install martial law on New York, which causes every Arab-descented individual to be locked up, including Frank's son. Annette Bening plays a CIA spy attempting to crack the case and has some involvement as well...
I must say Edward Zwick still has his directorial flair for entertainment, but the screenplay could've used some serious modifications. The movie jumps around a lot without a clear focus. We also never really know WHY the Arabs are bombing New York in the first place. The acting in it isn't very good either... which is sad for me to say, because both Willis and Washington are fine actors. They seem like they're trying too hard in their roles. Bening was ok. Shalhoub is probably the best remembered actor out of all of them; he portrayed a sense of angst and rage for this crisis which unfortunately involves his son.
The movie also makes me a little upset because it portrays America in such a dark light. I know that my country is not perfect, but SERIOUSLY, I don't think OUR OWN COUNTRY WOULD DECLARE MARTIAL LAW ON A MAJOR CITY ON THE DROP OF A DIME, much less imprison every Arab-American just because they're Arab. This is one area that has bothered many reviewers here (i.e. claiming it's racist). I really can't make a judgement on that since it's not very clear in the film; we see the "good" side with Shalhoub's character, yet the Arab-Americans are being imprisoned without discussion. And Willis' character... he's an annoying twit. Is our military that pompous? The ending seemed really contrived and failed to solve any mysteries.
Overall, this was a disappointing film for me. It's not very clear what's going on. Sadly, this film came out before the Sept. 11 events that damaged our country, yet now it's selling more than before just because of the Arab/American conflict portrayed in it. I suggest only renting this one; it's an overrated film indeed. A waste of talent.
on January 3, 2004
As I am half Lebanese myself, I do not agree with the many claims that this movie is racist. First of all, it gives a glimpse of the Islamic and Arab community in New York City and shows some positive aspects of their culture, and second, the protagonist has a Lebanese partner. I think that many Arabs who did find this movie racist were more worried about the subject manner. Most Arabs living in America are very patriotic, often to the point where they hate seeing negative aspects of the American government as much as many European Americans. This was a movie which tried to show, in addition to terrorism, exactly what the American government is capable of when it feels threatened by a particular ethnicity or political persuasion; as exemplified by the internment camps which were created for Shiite Moslems and the scene where the suspected terrorist is tortured and shot. These acts were not an attempt by the movie-makers to say that they approve of it (if it were, I'm sure the Lebanese actor Tony Shaloub would not have had a part in it) but to show the extremities to which military officials can be driven. In the aforementioned internment camp scene a moment is even taken to address Arab pride, as Tony Shaloub's character throws his badge at Denzel Washington 's character and says, "Tell them I'm not their sand-ni**er anymore."
Those who want to criticize racist movies need only look to The Delta Force, or Rules of Engagement. But The Siege is a movie which truly takes all aspects of the terrorism issue into consideration, except perhaps what provokes it.
on October 12, 2003
Hollywood has always liked playing with the heads of their audience and feeding off their fears. This film is no different. It works into people's fear of terrorism and - of course - the government, and especially the military. Not only does it present a cliche military commander, but a typical anti-military portrayal of servicemen in general. Its also extremely predictable, and I felt more bored than excited watching it. There were also a few moments where I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, "Yeah...right."
What also hurts it is all the unnecessary fluff added in, especially the romance between Denzel and Annete. When they oogle eye each other at the dance, you can't help but think, "Oh man, here we go!" The film has too much drama for some thing that could have been handled in a well, thought-out, satirical manner.
Wait for it to come on late at night on TNT before you watch it. You'll have the option of changing the channel, which is an option you will WANT to have.
on June 23, 2003
In 1998 I could easily have glossed over this movie as yet another Hollywoodesque mega-treatment of a hackneyed racial slur. But now, after the you-know-what in 2001, the theme, the perspectives, the sheer predicament of things, and most importantly, the message of the movie are stunning in their frightening reality. Much of the city under "siege" could have been a doozy idea in 1998, but in 2003 it doesn't seem to be that distant a possibility. Could this have given Al Quaeda the ideas it needed for 911?
I am not sure why some reviewers rant about this being an anti-Islamic or anti-Arab propoganda. The movie shows a clear distinction between the good guys (Denzel's colleague in FBI is an Arab too) and the fanatics who plan to blow up buildings with no remorse all in the name of "allah". This film isn't about anti-ethnic sentiment, it's more about paranoia and hasty decision making brought about by reactionary leadership (such as the extant one, of course).
The story clicks on all of the present hot buttons such as terrorism in NYC, America's militant retaliation, and the futility of such belligerence in ridding the world of terrorism. It is unnerving to to think of how much our world has changed since this movie first came out so many years previously and that a film that was made to be entertaining and an escape from our real everyday life now is now a reminder of some very recent and real tragic events (7-11, US snipper shootings). It is no longer entertaining to watch because of it's subject matter (terrorism/random acts of killings), location (New York City), presentation (highly realistic news coverage soundbites), fly overs of NYC skyline with Twin Towers, visuals NYC finest rushing in to help the victims and the shot of the whole in the blown out building (troublingly similar to Ground Zero site as it looks now) etc, but still paints an alarmingly accurate of our world as it stands today.
The title of the movie could be a little better. "Siege" is such a hackneyed word in Hollywood. Perhaps it was the glam-bam marketing that did the movie in, but it is an absolutely riveting, thought provoking thriller that will stun you with its realism, and with its gutwrenching perspectives on the futility of war and terrorism, regardless of their form or endorsement. If such intellectual pontification is not your bag, this is still a non-stop edge-of-the-seat action. Highly recommended.
on May 21, 2003
So I saw this movie when it was in theaters way back yonder, and thought it was a pretty interesting flick. Some aforementioned comments speak of how absurd it is, the military chasing down arabs and/or preaching about racism, but if anyone really checked their history book, it wouldn't have been the first time the US military imprisoned people because of their ethnicity; just look at the Japanese Internment camps. Granted, we all learned our lesson since, but the point of the movie was a big "what if" in modern terms.
Now fast forward years later in a post 9/11 world. This isn't such a bizarre movie after all. Matter of fact, during the aftermath of it all, this movie did in fact pop into my head. Terrorism in New York (in different fashions, but similar meaning) by Islamic extremists and the reaction of such events as seen from a couple different aspects. It wasn't too far off. There are some very cinematic elements thrown in, but the really subtle stuff that didn't pertain to the story is really what bled through. If anything, just watch this movie to compare our view of terrorism then (which we obviously underestimated) and now. Sure it's not an Oscar caliber flick or anything, but it's a good one to watch on occasion.
on March 23, 2002
NOTE: This review was written May, 1999
A decade ago, a movie like The Siege might have been written off as a paranoid scenario produced by an overactive imagination. Today, this tale of Federal government agencies' fighting over how to deal with a series of terrorist attacks seems almost too plausible. Its realism may have lowered its entertainment quotient.
The main characters each represent an agency responsible for protection this nation and its citizens. Denzel Washington is Anthony, a highly placed agent in the FBI's New York City office. Elise [Annette Bening] is a veteran CIA agent, while Gen. William Devereaux [Bruce Willis] represents the Army.
Followers of a missing Arab terrorist leader begin a systematic series of attacks on public places in The Big Apple. These become progressively larger and more horrendous. The problem is compounded by the fact that the demands of the terrorists are vague. The identity of the culprits is hard to figure out. The idea that they are on a suicide mission becomes increasingly evident.
The action sequences of this thriller are by the book, and the characters are fairly stock ones. Still, the story manages to be above average. Its creators realized that this was a complex subject. How would our government handle such a situation? How can we know? It's never happened before on such a massive scale. Would we remain level headed, or would we rush to mandate martial law? Could the result of such events be our relinquishing our own freedoms? While The Siege has a proper movie climax, the makers do not pretend to have the answers.
The issue of big government is also addressed. The Federal government is so vast and bureaucratic that the movie suggest that different agencies would respond in different ways. Lines of communication between the FBI, the CIA and the Armed Forces are not clearly defined. Perhaps they would fight - and thus cancel out - each other. The Presidency and the Congress have become so politically polarized that their coming up with a quick, unified answer does seem a bit farfetched. A variation of the nightmare scenario that The Siege suggests seems probable.
Washington, Bening and Willis are always professional and fun to watch. In this case, they are given fairly sketchy characters to work with. This is the film's main failing. There are moments of edge-of-your-seat thrills. The plot is thought provoking. But with all the "heroes" having an aura of cardboard about them, it is hard for the movie to involve the audience as deeply as it might have. This is a shame, because it prevents The Siege from being the best movie thriller of recent years.
on February 19, 2002
A series of terrorist attacks occur in New York City killing many innocent lives. An FBI agent, along with his Arab-American partner, go out conducting investigations to figure out who's behind all this and other terrorist cells within New York with the help of someone from the CIA. However, the President declares martial law on New York leading a US Army General to send troops to secure the city. The General gets into the FBI's way, hindering their investigation to find out who's really behind all this.
The movie show some resemblance to September 11: the targets are in New York, involves Arab suicide bombers, and how America fears for the safety of its people. It's a pretty close but it doesn't involve planes. Denzel Washington and Tony Shalhoub play an excellent job as Agents Hubbard and Haddad as Annette Benning and Bruce Willis do a good job as the CIA agent and the general. The movie has some sort of conflicts between the FBI and the U.S. Army which show some confusing things on who's really the authority of New York. The FBI does investigations and uses local law enforcement to stop criminals as the Army defends the country with its soldiers. There are some scenes that remind you of history, like the roundup of Arab Americans look similar to the World War II roundup of Japanese Americans. The terrorist attacks resemble how the Palestine suicide bombers attack Israelis and there's a quick two-second scene showing some young Arab Americans throwing things at a U.S. tank, resembling young Palestinean boys protesting against Israeli troops. The movie has left some things that are based on a lot of historical events.
The Siege is a really powerful movie because it has kept me nevous on some scenes when I first saw it and it shows possible scenarios on how the U.S. responds in situations. The bad thing about this movie is that it only has one extra feature: the theatrical trailer. It's only good as a rental.
on October 16, 2001
Having watched The Siege before, the events of September 11 were a reality check. One of the first things I thought upon hearing that planes had hit the World Trade Center was of this movie.
While this is a fictional account, it is a somber reminder of what could have happened in real life. Watching this movie after the attacks, it takes on an entirely different meaning to me. Everyone has changed in some fashion after the tragedy, and this movie is an example of just how confident we were in our national security.
Denzel Washington, in the lead role, portrays a very convincing anti-terrorism agent with the F.B.I. The casting of Tony Shaloub (Wings) as his Arab-American partner brings the other side of the argument into play - being blamed for something because you share a race or some other identifiable characteristic with a group. While this movie was not meant to be any sort of documentary or reality-based production, it also manages to provide a sense of understanding about what the FBI has to do when investigating such incidents. This movie was good before the attacks, now it it much more meaningful for them.