A high-profile action/exploitation thriller set in the present, The Siege is really a fantasy that extrapolates from major terrorist attacks. Denzel Washington is FBI special agent Hubbard, "Hub" to his friends, whose anti... more »-terrorist task force must track down the terrorist cells responsible for a spate of bombings in New York. His partner is an FBI agent of Arabian extraction (played convincingly by Tony Shalhoub), proving not all Arabs are bad guys--a point the film should be lauded for making again and again. Thrown into the mix is a CIA spy (played almost kittenish at times by Annette Bening), whose ties to the terrorists appear to be at the center of the conflicts. When the bombings escalate out of control, the President institutes martial law, sending in General Devereaux (played with impenetrable countenance by Bruce Willis) with tanks and troops to ferret out the terrorists. Echoes of Japanese-Americans in internment camps ring out as Arabs, including the son of the Arab-American FBI agent, are herded into a stadium. Periodic audio-montages of "man in the street" sentiments anchor the material in the present and show how serious and relevant the material is. But finally what we have is a taut and entertaining popcorn movie, giving itself the humanistic nod when it can. --Jim Gay« less
TheHighlander | Richfield, PA United States | 04/29/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie came out before Americans ever really thought that terrorist attacks on our soil were a possibility. But it rings true and offers up many thoughts to ponder. Denzel Washington plays the FBI agent in charge of the investigation of the bombings that are destroying New York City. Annette Bening plays the CIA agent who is working towards the same end but from a different angle. The problem is, she is not being up front with the FBI and hiding her sources and much of her information. Do you think this is not possible even today? There has been much talk about the lack of communications between the agencies. While Denzel and Annette turn in fine performances it is Bruce Willis who steals the show. As the Army General who is eventually given the task of setting up the rules of martial law in New York City and taking control of the situation. Bruce's character argues against martial law and tries to explain to anyone who will listen that the U.S. Army is something that they do not want involved in this. That the army is not a swift sword but a massive blunt device that can not surgically remove the problem. But no one heads his message and when he is ordered to take control he does so with brute force. Setting up "concentration camps" of Arab Americans and shutting down the exits from the city with tanks. Tanks in New York City! Is it far fetched to think it is possible if the terrorism gets worse on our soil, that we could set up these types of camps? Again and again we see the different views of how to proceed from the FBI, CIA and U.S. Armed Forces. A study in our government and their reaction in a small way. This movie was an eye opening when it came out but unfortunately written off as nonbelievable by too many. Buy this movie, rent this movie, borrow this movie, but see this movie. You will be glad you did."
"The Siege tells a hypothetical story about terrorist attacks on New York City by Islamic fundamentalists, and how an FBI department led by Special Agent Hubbard (Denzel Washington) tries to stop them. A CIA agent (Annette Bening) is also involved, and refuses to cooperate with the FBI, at least at first. When the attacks continue and the FBI and police are unable to stop them, President Bill Clinton imposes martial law and U.S. Army units under General Devereaux (Bruce Willis) occupy and isolate Brooklyn and round up all the young Arab men and place them in an internment camp. This leads to several consequences and to a final showdown that will not be revealed here.
The Siege was controversial already in 1998 when it was released: the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Council on American-Islamic Relations both protested strenuously and said the movie was offensive and discriminatory. After the 9/11-2001 terrorist attacks on the United States it can be seen that the movie was in some ways prescient: it practically predicted terrorist attacks on New York by Islamic fundamentalists, a fatal lack of cooperation between the FBI and the CIA, and the imposition of measures that reduced civil liberties for average Americans.
In fact, the key conflict in The Siege is not the conflict between the terrorists and the law enforcement agencies. The key conflict is an ideological one: On one hand there are those who believe that all possible means, including the use of torture and the detention and isolation of suspects with no access to legal process, can be necessary responses to a terrorist threat. On the other hand there are those who believe that use of torture and the reduction of civil liberties can never be justified, and that if one resorts to these measures then one has handed victory to the terrorists.
It is the emphasis of this ideological conflict that makes The Siege so thought provoking and leads me to award it five stars.
Others have panned The Siege as being too anti-military, claiming that the imposition of martial law is farfetched and the U.S. military depicted as too inhumane. Here it must be pointed out that in the hypothetical situation presented in The Siege there was an on-going series of terrorist attacks with no end in sight, a far different situation than that experienced on 9/11-2001.
It's interesting to note that the script for The Siege was written by Lawrence Wright, who later, in 2006, wrote a book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, and won the Pulitzer Prize for it. This book is also highly recommended.
A few words about DVD extra material. The first DVD release (2000) includes a 13-minute special feature "The Making of The Siege", which is fairly interesting but nothing very special. There is a newer DVD release (2007) subtitled "Martial Law Edition" which includes two additional special features, "The Siege: Taking New York" and "The Siege: Freedom is History". Unfortunately I haven't seen this edition yet.
Highly recommended, at least if you want more than just action and drama and enjoy thought-provoking stories.
YOU DON'T KILL A MOSQUITO WITH A BOMB
Shashank Tripathi | Gadabout | 06/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Realistic and very plausible scenario
Mr N Forbes-warren | Newport, South Wales, UK | 08/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What if an Arab terrorist(or several?) attacked New York, escalating his bombing capabilities? How easy is it to turn people against one another with hate crimes and martial law? Does the end justify the means when General Devereaux(Bruce Willis) suspects all Arabs in New York and introduces a policy that's no better than Hitler's concentration camps? Just who is the bad guy? Well, this is a fantastic and highly dramatic story which could well come true . . . maybe it already has. Denzel Washington plays an FBI agent investigating the bomb attacks as New York is plunged into paranoia. First a bus, then a crowded theatre, and then the suicide bombers go for the FBI building. When Congress elect declaration of martial law, will it work? Watch for yourself. In my view, as well, I disagree with anyone that calls this movie racist. Go stay locked in your leftie student digs while your rich parents send you handouts! What the point is that when the actions of a few(it can apply to any social group) affect the well-being of the social/ethnic group as a whole, then it's a bad thing. The soundbites of New Yorkers calling for deportation and hatecrimes adds further imapct. All in all, a good, taut action thriller that also conveys many messages about the society we live in."
One of the Effects of Cinematic Media: Reaction
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 01/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Watching the 1998 THE SIEGE in 2007 and then rolling through all the reviews of this film from the time of release to the present is a lesson in the power of the cinema. The obvious initial response was less about the film as a film than about the manner in which the FBI, CIA, Military, Terrorists, and public responded to the unimaginable: shouts of protests about 'glorification of occult terrorists', the Hollywood idea of the impossible happening, and the criticism of the fine cast of actors who steeped into roles 'beyond swallowing' are all here in these reviews.
Now, six years after 9/11 reviewers are taking a different view, though most still find the film pompous and obnoxious. Offensive versus defensive. And after viewing the movie as a movie it is gratifying to know that people feel strongly and are vocal about the depiction of the 'war against terrorism' we continue to lose. Movies that make people think and talk are valuable, and in that light the film is more successful than initially considered.
Yes, there are gaping holes in the script and the plot and the concept, but as a little thriller it maintains our attention throughout and offers some fine moments from actors such as Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Tony Shalhoub, Bruce Willis, Sami Bouajila, Ahmed Ben Larby, Aasif Mandvi among others. And then there are the panoramas of New York City under siege with the Twin Towers standing mightily in the cityscape... It begs the question: if scriptwriter Lawrence Wright and director Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai, Courage Under Fire, Glory, Leaving Normal, Legends of the Fall, etc) were thinking along these lines and finding flaws in our intelligence forces, why weren't the leaders in Washington, DC in tune with 'absurd possibilities'? It makes one think - and that is the best thing about this film. Grady Harp, January 07 "