Monday, April 8, 2013

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Enemy of the State

This week's choice for Movie of the Week is Tony Scott's "Enemy of the State". Released in 1998, the film is about a group of corrupt intelligence agents who kill a US Congressman and try to cover up the murder. Evidence of this murder is accidentally captured on tape (by a wildlife researcher) which falls into the hands of an unwitting lawyer Robert Dean (played by Will Smith). As these agents try to push their agenda (increased homeland surveillance under the guise of national security), they hunt down Dean to ensure that this evidence remains hidden. The events that ensue portray a high-octane manhunt that certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Perhaps more renowned for his other work, "Enemy of the State" remains one of Scott's most underrated films in my opinion. It's capably directed, with a surprisingly dense script that gave him a lot to work with. He's definitely in his element, creating a sense of real-time urgency that reminded me a lot of the TV series "24". The thrills come hard and fast, as the film moves at quite a frantic pace, impressively maintaining its energy for the lengthy running time.
While Scott gets to show off his stylish technique, the fine ensemble does strong work in conveying the intriguing story. I've long been a fan of Will Smith and this performance is a perfect example of why I've been so loyal in my support. He exudes such confidence and charisma that you can't help but get involved in his character. He certainly proves himself as a worthy leading man. Despite Smith's efforts however, Gene Hackman turns out to be the MVP, playing a retired agent that aids Smith in clearing his name and fighting the bad guys. He arrives around midway through the film and basically runs away with it. Drawing from some of his character traits from films like "The French Connection", he is constantly dynamic and compelling.
Story-wise, the film is a fascinating time capsule that captures the rising technological revolution of the late 90s, while curiously foreshadowing the paranoia that followed the 9/11 attacks. As someone with a slight "Big Brother" complex myself, it was very interesting to see this topic explored, especially considering its timing (it was made before the signing of the Patriot Act). It proves that people have always had apprehensions about trusting their neighbour, even in the absence of an obvious threat. It really makes you wonder how much personal privacy you would sacrifice in the name of both national and personal security.
On the whole, "Enemy of the State" is a solid action-thriller that should appeal to most viewers. I would readily admit though that it could have been trimmed down a bit (it's a bit overlong) and the direction sometimes draws too much attention to itself. Apart from that, it's certainly better than your average thriller made in a similar vein. It keeps you entertained and gets you thinking, which is a compliment in and of itself, as that's a rare combination in today's output of films in this genre.


  1. It's a fun, tense, and electric movie. Smith is also very good and it's time that the dude came back to the big screen and showed us all that he's got. Hopefully After Earth shows us him back in star mode. Good review.

    1. It really is action-packed isn't it? There's hardly any time to rest in the whole film. I also hope Will Smith gets back to serious acting.