The Siege

on November 06, 1998 by Wade Major
   Post-Cold War Middle Eastern paranoia is the subject of director/co-writer/co-producer Edward Zwick's "The Siege," a flawed but not uninteresting political thriller that struggles with middling success to satisfy the dual aims of being both commercially entertaining and socially significant.
   While investigating a series of terrorist bombings threatening to bring New York to the brink of chaos, FBI agent Anthony "Hub" Hubbard (Denzel Washington) uncovers an unsettling government connection relating to the kidnapping of a zealous Iraqi sheik. Eventually forced to cooperate with a less-than-forthright CIA agent played by Annette Bening, Hubbard makes progress at tracking down the perpetrators, but not before the bombings escalate to apocalyptic proportions, forcing the government to take the otherwise unthinkable action of declaring martial law in the borough of Brooklyn where New York's Arab community is concentrated. Adding insult to injury, the man in charge of the occupation is none other than the rogue mastermind behind the Sheik's kidnapping, General William Devereaux (Bruce Willis).
   Contrary to the contentions of Arab-American leaders who have accused the filmmakers of feeding racist and inflammatory sentiments, the story is painstakingly fair and does raise some compelling issues with regard to civil rights, even if it borders on the preposterous in order to do so. As law-abiding Arab-Americans are interned without trial--in some instances even tortured--the audience is asked to confront the moral quandary of how far a government should or shouldn't go to enforce the law and protect its citizenry. To this end, the filmmakers spare no device, however obvious, even going so far as to include a Lebanese-born FBI agent, played by Tony Shalhoub, on Washington's team.
   In a sense, "The Siege" could serve as a semi-sequel to Zwick's and Washington's last collaboration, "Courage Under Fire," which dealt with similar issues inside the military establishment. As in that earlier film, Washington is perfectly cast as the film's conscience and voice of reason. Tony Shalhoub, in a more dramatic turn than usual, is surprisingly convincing and effective, despite the obviousness of the character. Bening, on the other hand, is surprisingly unconvincing, while Willis' overwrought Oliver North-style theatrics, though fitting, seem to be from another movie.
   Technical credits, including Zwick's direction, are predictably slick, almost to the point of obfuscating how ordinary the exercise really is. Starring Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis and Tony Shalhoub. Directed by Edward Zwick. Written by Lawrence Wright and Menno Meyjes & Edward Zwick. Produced by Lynda Obst and Edward Zwick. A Fox release. Political thriller. Rated R for violence, language and brief nudity. Running time: 115 min
Tags: Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis, Tony Shalhoub, Lawrence Wright, Menno Meyjes, Edward Zwick, Lynda Obst, A Fox release, Political thriller, dramatic, law, government, terrorist, New York, rogue

read all Reviews »


No comments were posted.

What do you think?