The Siege

Year: 1998
Production Co: Bedford Falls Productions
Director: Edward Zwick
Producer: Edward Zwick/Lynda Obst
Writer: Edward Zwick/Lawrence Wright/Menno Meyjes
Cast: Denzel Washington, Annette Benning, Bruce Willis, Tony Shalhoub

I never quite forgave the studio (or distributor) of this movie. On the back of the video cover of the Australian release there was a frightening and spectacular picture of the Brooklyn Bridge blowing up, making me expecting a big scale apocalyptic actioner even though it never appeared in the movie (at least, the version I saw).

That aside, it's a crafty little terrorism thriller about the American investigative services trying to uncover a terrorist threat on their own soil in a jittery pre 9/11 world that was in hindsight eerily prophetic about things like racial profiling.

Denzel Washington is the straight laced FBI agent, Bruce Willis the even-mannered army commander and Annette Benning the CIA agent who might be in too deep with the enemy.

The story is about the secret abduction of a suspect that leads to an outbreak of attacks in and around New York, which in turn intensifies into a martial-law lockdown of the city while the powers that be try to get to the bottom of it.

But more interesting is how the movie feels about its characters and the way it portrays them. To Americans (or at least the filmmakers' and studios' interpretation of their views), the FBI is the buttoned down, hardworking family man who just wants a just and safe world for his kids. The army is brutish but necessary - as Willis' character says while trying to dissuade a superior from sending the army into the city 'it'll be big, it'll be noisy, it'll be scary'.

And the CIA is enigmatic, ghostly and untrustworthy, operating outside the law and forgetting who it's fighting for as it's revealed Benning's character is romantically involved with at least one of the men she's supposed to be spying on.

It's an America Is Great thriller than at least investigates the ramifications of such a stance to more of an extent than the average action thriller, though the comparative lack of action is a letdown.

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