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Surveillance as depicted in movies is an interesting topic. The movie
The Anderson Tapes (1971) already depicted wall-to-wall surveillance by
numerous government agencies as a robbery plot unfolded. In Enemy of
the State, the National Security Agency (NSA), which exists, has hugely
enhanced surveillance capabilities with satellites and on-ground teams,
as in The Conversation (1974). Gene Hackman, wearing glasses, appears
in both of the latter two movies.
Jon Voight is a rogue NSA bureaucrat who directs operations. He and some of his team kill a Congressman (Jason Robards) who is standing in the way of a bill in Congress that extends their surveillance powers. (By now, such powers are common, so that art has preceded reality or quickly intuited it as is often the case.) Ironically, the murder is filmed by a bird watcher. When Voight hears of this, he sets his teams to work recovering the film, murdering more people, and covering up. Will Smith comes into possession of a disk with the film, and he becomes the harried and threatened protagonist, later assisted by an irascible ex-NSA agent (Gene Hackman). The movie plays out as a fairly conventional decent thriller.
I found interesting the depiction of the hands who do Voight's dirty work of the actual surveillance and murder. He has two teams with these separate functions. They are young, their clothing doesn't identify them, and they are glued to their electronic devices just as if they were any youths you might see playing video games intensely, only their toys are far more sophisticated. The kill-team has more young men who do their searching, running, and gun-pointing work without hesitation. They do not kill indiscriminately at all, but they will if ordered to. The State cannot operate without the loyalty and unswerving obedience of these young men. I have the feeling that they believe in what they do (that they are the good guys and their superiors identify the bad guys for them), but also their superiors know how to exploit their psychology. These young men like the taste of the chase, the hunt, the power, the action, the voyeurism, and the winning, plus they are submissive to boot. It was annoying for me to see these young squirts operating like little Nazis. Is this real? I mean, does this portrayal capture some elements of reality among those who "serve"? I think it does. Liberty is in huge danger from a government that recruits and trains such people, and from the millions who know nothing of it or approve of it.
In the end, here's another irony. These submissive men who always take orders have to make a decision on their own when Voight is in danger, and they make a hasty, emotional and wrong decision, which is their downfall and his too. Under pressure to think straight, they fail to do so. Their capacities are purely mechanical. They are linked as one to their computer screens and electronic signals. Their minds have atrophied in other ways. In fact, the movie never shows these young men as characters or persons. They are not developed as such in the screenplay. This is fitting.
Voight is given several speeches in which he justifies the NSA's spying. The movie is not unbalanced. Nevertheless, since he commits a crime and since Will Smith is the hero, the movie comes down on the side of controlling the surveillance and spying capacities of government. Will Smith's wife delivers opinions that take that point of view, so there is a kind of debate in the script. However, it's a thriller. The movie does stop and focus on the human element a bit when Will Smith's former girl friend (Lisa Bonet) is murdered, but it is not particularly strong in bringing out the negatives of surveillance. The bird watcher is killed, for example, and the movie quickly moves on. It has to, in some sense, because he is not a major character.
Voight is a rogue within the NSA. We are not given all that much direct intimation that the government is vastly overreaching, and that its power against individuals is crossing a line into police state. Yet the movie does leave that general impression. I am sure that other Hollywood thrillers have explored in more depth the excesses of the State itself. If not, they will. And they will be getting into scenarios in which the President becomes a dictator. I've seen a good many foreign movies that go back 20-30 years, like those by Costa-Gavras, that are simultaneously excellent thrillers while exploring government oppressions of various kinds and focusing more intensely on the effects this has on individual persons. These are not done in the more or less standardized Hollywood style that tends to veer off into superficial entertainment.
None of this stops or has stopped the State's progression, but it doesn't hurt to raise public awareness of the growing police state via popular entertainment like this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Now this is the story all about how Will's life got flipped, turned upside down. It takes 132 minutes so just sit right there and I'll tell you about how he became the pawn of some spy warfare. In District of Columbia, born and raised, in the courthouse is where he spent most of his days. Pleadin' out, lawin', objectin' all cool and chasing some mob boss outside of school. When a couple of agents were up to no good, started killin' congressmen in the neighborhood. He got one little tape and the NSA got scared, and said "You've murdered your girlfriend in cold blood so there!" Will, he whistled for a contact and when he came near, the license said 'Brill', who had a security fear. If anything he could say this cat was rare, but then they got captured which lead to despair. They pulled up to the mob house around seven or eight, and Will yelled to the NSA "Yo I'm your negotiator!" There was some killing he was luckily spared to reclaim his life with a breath of fresh air.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film delivers!! There are several espionage films out there about what the government is really up to these days, but this is one of the few that really catches my attention. The story is well paced and won't let you down that's for sure. Will Smith stars and his acting is extraordinary here. Gene Hackman also portrays his character solidly if I say so myself, and Jon Voight does well too. All the other characters are fantastic and won't bore you, giving lots of emotion to the film. The action is great and will keep you on the edge of your seat till it's all over. I love the chase sequence that ends with a fire truck and a crushed bike. The end gun battle was nice and it all remains realistic at the same time without being over the top. Yes!!! The score is fantastic and gives a somber feel to the film. Loved it! This film truly is a first rate thriller!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I add my vote to most comments posted here as this being an excellent
film. It is hard to imagine that the silly kid Will Smith ("Robert
Dean") played on TV to become the capable actor he has become on film.
"Enemy of the State" certainly documents that.
I also agree that the film was made way before its time, and certainly cannot be "dated". It also documents how innocent people become embroiled in very complicated and dangerous situations, with having done nothing to cause it. "Big Brother" is all too relevant in this film, and one can imagine it's much worse now since "the Patriot Act" is in full-swing.
As all users mention, many actors-actresses cast at that time have become major stars. However, it IS the old-school guys who make the film believable......Gene Hackman (" Brill") and Jon Voight ("Reynolds") do stellar acting-jobs, with the help of countless smaller roles.
This is one "chase" and shoot-'em-up" film which did not bore me and I could truly relate to. I've watched it three times this week, so you can see that I enjoyed Tony Scott's directing and THE STORY David Marconi put on the screen. Regina King ("Rachel Banks") definitely added to the suspense of "Enemy of the State" - a good family film.
SO, Guys - be careful what you do in today's world - don't take it for granted that everything is rosy and safe. Bravo !
From the outset, Enemy of the State looks like it may be another
formulaic thriller, and while that is true to a certain extent; I
really wouldn't hesitate to name this film as one of the best of it's
type simply because the plot flows excellently, and the film is a lot
of fun to watch; those qualities always being among the most important
for a film like this. The film handles the central theme of privacy and
the Government interfering in people's private lives. Of course,
there's also a conspiracy that the plot is driven from. The plot begins
with the murder of Congressman Phillip Hammerson, which is promptly
covered up and made to look like a suicide by a politician named Thomas
Reynolds. This has reverberations for a lawyer named Robert Dean, as
unfortunately for him; a birdwatcher he knows caught the whole ugly
incident on tape, and as (bad) luck would have it, Robert Dean happened
to be in the same shop as his old friend during a police chase. It's
not long before the man and the agency behind the murder start to pull
the lawyer's life apart...
The film stars Will Smith, who is great in the lead role and provides the film with its main asset. He doesn't strike me as the lawyer type, but Will Smith has a great charisma and pretty much lend himself to any role he's given; here, he ensures that the film is always interesting. Enemy of the State is not your average action flick either; the film does feature stunts and a few explosions, but these are never the main focus of the film. Much of the excitement is sprung from the interaction between the central characters and the storyline, which results in a more engaging film. There are a few chase sequences which are very well executed, however and these add to the film's overall quality. Enemy of the State is directed by Tony Scott; a director with a penchant for making often decent, but never really brilliant thrillers; but this one is at the top of his oeuvre. The film co-stars Gene Hackman, who is good, although I've never been a fan of his; plus a number of other familiar faces, such as Jon Voight, Jason Lee, Seth Green, Gabriel Byrne and Jack Black, who steals the show as usual. Overall, this is an excellent and entertaining little film that comes highly recommended.
Enemy Of The State is a nice action flick. But the special formula,
used by Tony Scott, to make us like the movie, doesn't include great
action, or great storyline. It has style, that includes an interesting
general idea of the movie and great camera angles. The general idea,
the movie was based on, is that you can be spotted anywhere in the open
by the satellite, and be followed by it. The camera angles, and images
that take us to the satellite and back add a lot to the intensity,
which is already high. The movie is fast paced and never boring.
The plot is very simple. Murder, involving high rank officials, is taped. The tape falls to the hands of our main hero, Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith). Those involved will do anything to get rid of the evidence, and the chase begins. The plot turns to be superficial once Edward Lyle ( Gene Hackman ) gets into the picture and the ending is even less convincing then that. But the intensity of the movie, being always on the run, the cast and the style clearly compensate for the lack of plot originality.
Good refreshing movie, that stands itself out from other action flicks with general storyline, by being stylish and having an innovative idea.
After what feels like a slow start (just laying the groundwork) the film takes off and races the last hour through paranoid ultra-high tech chase scenes that really do deliver. The case does a bang-up job and the level of government eavesdropping reaches epic proportions. Computer geeks may spot a truck load of flaws, but otherwise it's a lot of fun.
This was a great thriller / action piece and a chance to bring into the light a classic American film, The Conversation. Gene Hackman basically reprises his role as Harry Call, 15 years later than the events in that film. Will Smith is great as a straight man for a change with hardly any of his typical one liner....aw damn, lines. The supporting cast, however, is what makes the film shine, that and a truly smart script playing on our paranoias and fears of being watched. This is a film where everyone in it, is somebody. Jaime Kennedy from the Scream movies, Seth Green from Can't Hardly wait, Gabe Byrne, everybody is in this film. I give kudos to Bruckheimer and Tony Scott for going back to their roots and making a tight action film, smartly written and nicely acted.
really good companion piece to 'X-files' and 'The Conversation', in fact
Gene Hackman plays a semi-sequel of parts to his part in that. Hackman is
one of the Immortals, bringing class and charisma to anything he does. Smith
is a good every-man, some of his line-readings seemed forced, but overall I
am happy with his job here. The plot reminded me strongly of 'Sneakers',
save for the fact that the 'Sneakers' were the baddies this time out. I
enjoy the Bruckheimer touch and hope that they continue their fine work in
their next film, a Pearl Harbor knock-off.
the Gazzo-2 rating? *** outta ****, suspenseful, semi-plausible, you can't go wrong with Jon Voight and Gabriel Byrne(in a cameo, mind...) in a film together with Gene and Busey's kid....
The action producing-directing team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott is back with another thrill-a-minute ride called Enemy of the State. Taking its "innocent man accidentally caught up in political corruption" story from such films as Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Sydney Pollack's Three Days of the Condor, they turn up the high- tech volume in an attempt to create the ultimate action film. Robert Clayton Dean, played by Will Smith, is a devoted father, husband, and attorney shopping for a sexy gift for his wife. What he doesn't know is that he was given a videotape from a friend (Jason Lee) regarding the recent murder of a U.S. senator led by corrupt National Security Agency official Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voight). Now Reynolds is after Dean to cover his tracks or, as the audience soon finds out, frame Dean for Rachel's murder. Since Dean isn't up on his high-tech gadgetry, he needs the aid of ex-intelligence operative Brill (Gene Hackman).Dean realizes that in the modern world, there is no such thing as total privacy
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