The Siege (1998) Poster

(1998)

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Eerily prescient.
grendelkhan21 August 2004
This film, made in 1998, is so close to the reality of Sept. 11, 2001 that it sends chills down your spine. Although events played out differently, so many elements in the film are near-mirror reflections of the reality. The attacks are carried out by Islamic extremists, whose core network were trained by the CIA, their attacks were dramatic and centered on New York City, there was little cooperation between, the FBI, CIA and military, and Arabs and Arab-Americans were rounded up in large numbers, or were subjected to harassment and violence. The images of bodies and debris are no less shocking than the sight of people jumping to their death from the World Trade Center. Torture was employed by US soldiers, in pursuit of terrorists. With all of that said, even had the attacks of Sept. 11th not occurred, this would still be a tremendous film.

Director Ed Zwick and actor Denzell Washington team up once again for a great one-two punch. Denzell brings great humanity to his role as an FBI agent, charged with counter-terrorism operations and investigations. He is aided by Tony Shalhoub, who delivers another great performance and some of the best lines. Annette Benning displays her talent as a CIA operative at the heart of the whole crisis. Roger Deacons adds his wonderful cinematography, and Bruce Willis turns in a fine performance as an over-zealous army general.

The film delivers a cautionary tale about extreme reactions to terror and the loss of freedoms that can result from acting in anger, rather than with reason and law. The rounding up of citizens, as depicted in the film, and the declarations of martial law, are not that far away from the provisions of the Patriot Act, which violates First Amendment rights, the right to privacy, and the right to due process. The film suggests that by giving up these rights, or stripping them away, we become the very thing that our enemies claim we are. It suggests that that may be the terrorists true aim.

This is not a crystal ball prediction of 9/11; but it is a fine thriller. The filmmakers did their homework and got quite a bit right. They also extrapolated things to an extreme, but not an implausible one. However, they delivered an excellent film, and one that should be seen and studied.
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7/10
Still stands up
Surecure20 November 2003
I remember hearing about this film before its release. It had caught a great deal of flack for its use of Arabs and Muslims in particular as violent extremists. Even at that time I knew that the protests against this film were nothing more than politically correct nonsense, as even then the only trans-oceanic terrorists that existed were of the fake-Muslim variety that today we hear about every hour.

When I saw the film, I was impressed by the fair nature of the film, in that it portrayed the truth: these extremists exist in the overwhelming minority of Muslims, and that it is unwise and unfair to paint them all with the same brush. With a very good script, excellent performances and exciting action pieces, I was impressed.

Jump ahead a few years, and we see what we have learned. This film was not just an intelligent story. It was a warning sign. It examined things that people did not want to talk about. It examined things that people thought it more politically correct to ignore. It portrayed events realistically and in fact far less devastating than what was possible. If there is one thing that can be learned by examining a film such as this in retrospective of recent events, it is that our species chooses to ignore that which it does not want to accept.

Those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps there are other subjects we should stop being so PC about and actually talk about instead of worrying about "how it will look."
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9/10
What if....
Dan Grant19 June 1999
At first glance, The Siege looks to be a jingoistic, typically heroic American patriot film. But upon further review, and if you honestly give this movie a chance and listen to what it has to say, you'll see that it wants us to listen, it wants us to learn and it wants us to just look at the possibilities of " what if? ".

This is one of the best movies that I have seen in recent years and what kind of stumps me is the negative criticism surrounding the film, not just the complaint of racism ( I'll get into that later ) but about the film in general. And I have come to a conclusion that not everybody will agree with and certainly many will dislike.

The positive reviews that have been in the IMDb have been, at least a great many of them, from people that are nationalities other than American. And perhaps the reason for that is that we can sit back and look at the U.S. from afar and it may be easier for us ( as non Americans ) to understand more clearly what this movie is trying to say. And it may be easier for us ( whatever nationality we happen to be ) to understand what is wrong with America and why a film like this is just trying to give one possible reason for the decay of American society. That is not to say that our own countries don't have problems, because they do, but we can just see what is wrong with America a little easier, we are not blinded by our own patriotism. It may be easier still for perhaps Europeans to appreciate the movie even more than others because maybe their own countries have been under siege at one point or another. And maybe the relevance is that much more prevalent when you have been that close to something.

And what this movie has to say perhaps should not be taken lightly.

Steve Martin's character in " The Grand Canyon " uttered the line " watch the movies, they have all of life's answers. " Perhaps that has never been more true than what this film's message is. And I believe that message is that sooner or later if there is always going to be that one watch dog, that one Big Brother that is known as the United States, then something like this may happen. What if....

I truly believe this movie has been unfairly criticized about it's apparent racist tones. Every time there is a bombing by terrorists that are Arab in heritage, there is always a scene that follows where the Arab leagues lend their support and let the FBI know that they want these criminals brought to justice just as much as anyone does. " They love this country just as much as we do. " Denzel says in one of his speeches to the people in charge. Is it really racism when a movie tries to explore what could happen when one body of government takes matters in their own hands and breaks international law? To me every effort was made to show Arabs as normal, family loving, law abiding, peaceful citizens that they are. A bunch of Arab terrorists does not mean that all Arabs are fanatics that are bent on destroying America. That perception is like believing that all we as Canadians do is play hockey, drink beer and play in the snow.

The movie itself is so well acted and it is so well written that I really can't understand why Washington did not get a nod for best actor. He is mesmerizing. And I think his final confrontation with the general is tense, and brilliant.

Washington plays Hub, a very patriotic, by the book FBI agent that is personally affected by all the chaos that has ensued in his city, and he plays him brilliantly. Bening and Shaloub are also wonderful in their roles and the music in the film is haunting. Willis is a little weak in the film but that is minor in comparison to the rest of the movie.

If you haven't seen this film because of what you have heard, give it a chance, it is well worth it. And try to watch it and listen to what it has to say. You may be surprised. I'm not sure if something like this could ever happen to the US, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.
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6/10
One of the Effects of Cinematic Media: Reaction
gradyharp23 January 2007
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
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7/10
A solid film about paranoia and extremism
Agent1020 May 2002
I still can't see why this film was looked down upon objectively by the Arab-Americans living in the USA. Granted, this was before all of the Sept. 11 bombings, but the way the people were depicted in the film was objective. You had the extremists, capable of destroying building with no remorse from life, and you then had the other side. The innocents, the legal Arabs who love this country as much as the next person, blindly being lumped into one group without any provocation. This film isn't about anti-Arab sentiment, its more about paranoia and hasty decision making brought about by reactionary leadership. Interesting and enthralling, this film is better than what most people give it credit for.
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This fictional movie showed us what was coming. And they showed us what not to do!
metra20023 December 2004
This was a very strange film. Strange, because it had so many of its facts right for 9/11. Right city, right jihadists, right plot.

And the military's answer to the terrorist threats? Go in, plunder, pillage, torture, abuse and kill the bad guys. Moral? If we stoop to their level, we are no better than the enemy. The real irony is, Denzel's character had the CHARACTER to do the right thing.

Oddly, and presciently, Bruce Willis' general was about to do all the wrong stuff, and with a little help from Denzel, decided not to resort to all the things we really have resorted to. This movie is notable for several reasons, but the uppermost is showing us the future we shouldn't take, but took anyway.

The irony is not lost. What is confounding here is how much of this originally semi-corny movie got right. Washington, Benning, Shaloub, and Willis, all deliver in a big fashion, with some pertinent warnings. The road not taken was the moral. How scary that in the long run, when presented by a much larger threat, we one-upped this movie's punch line in reality. How much stranger can you get than that?

This was a fairly realistic portrait of the underworld, the intrigue, the terrorism, and gave us a scary view of our future. Hopefully, next time a movie like this one comes along, we might be better served by taking it more seriously.
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The Siege raised questions that we should have been asking before the tragedy of 9/11.
mlhenry-15 August 2003
I seem to remember that this film was looked down upon by the Arab Americans. I don't understand that considering the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and some of the perpetrators who were eventually apprehended. My husband and I found The Siege frighteningly entertaining. Once more Denzel Washington gave a tour-de-force performance. The rest of the cast was excellent. The script was prophetic. The writer understood what might happen if the war on terror resided in New York City. Where is Lawrence Wright now?
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7/10
The war in the streets of Brooklyn
jotix10014 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
What if the events in the news about the Middle East were to happen in the crowded streets of Brooklyn? Buses being blown by terrorists, or a bombing at the FBI headquarters, downtown Manhattan, or even a Broadway theater? No one is spared in this war being waged by terrorists that have infiltrated the country. In view of how the world has changed in the post September 11th era, it is not a far fetched idea because it could happen at any given moment.

"The Siege", directed by Edward Zwick, who also collaborated on the screen play, in retrospect, can be seen as precautionary warning of how things could degenerate when a group of Middle Eastern extremists start setting up a number of deathly attacks on institutions one holds dear. After all, wasn't the purpose of most of the wars to be fought overseas in order to keep America safe?

Anthony Hubbard, the level headed FBI agent in charge of investigating the terrorists' activities must face deadly enemies. In doing so, he also has to deal with the bigotry as the press and the government decide to round up innocent law abiding people whose only fault is to be of the same race as the few people that are creating panic in the city with their agenda. Of course, all this came out in a 1998 movie, which proves to be almost prophetic in heralding the attacks on the Twin Towers.

"The Siege", in a way, points out to the present Guantanamo. When hundreds of Arab-Americans are detained, they are sent into holding places where there is no hope of having justice done. Things go from bad to worse when Frank Haddad, Hubbard's own partner, learns his own teen aged son is taken to one of those places. A father's despair is real since he works trying to preserve law and order, but suddenly he realizes that bigotry has won the battle.

The other aspect of the story involves a sort of Mata Hari, an American born in Lebanon, whose loyalties are always questioned. We don't know whether to believe Elisa Kraft, and yet, she is always at the right place at the right moment, sometimes fighting Hubbard, who is skeptical of her methods.

When all hell lets loose, a misguided Army general, William Devereaux, is made to be in charge of the forces protecting New York City. Martial Law is declared and the city is living its worse moment until Hubbard rises to challenge Devereaux and his men.

As thrillers go, "The Siege" is packed with action. Denzel Washington is perfect as the decent FBI agent in charge. Annette Benning brings an aura of mystery to her CIA operative, who could be also a double spy. Tony Shalhoub appears as Hubbard's partner. Bruce Willis is the uptight Gen. Devereaux.

Edward Zwick directed with his usual style, making this a satisfactory tale that can well happen, although one can only hope it never does. Steven Rosemblum's editing works well with the action in the film. The cinematography of Roger Deakins captures a Brooklyn that is seldom seen in pictures. The music score by Grame Revill adds to the texture of the film.
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6/10
Effective movie on a relevant topic with an ending that contradicts its message
Wuchak28 October 2015
Released in 1998, "The Siege" chronicles events as New York City becomes the target of escalating terrorist attacks after the abduction of an Islamic leader by the US military. The head of the FBI's Counter-Terrorism Task Force (Denzel Washington) teams up with a CIA operative (Annette Benning) to hunt down the terrorist cells responsible for the attacks. Ultimately, the US government declares martial law and sends in the troops, led by General Devereaux (Bruce Willis). Tony Shalhoub plays the FBI agent's Arab-American partner while Sami Bouajila plays a seemingly suspicious Arab-American.

While clueless PC morons have criticized this movie as "racist propaganda" it dared to show the awful truth in the late 90s and was nigh prophetic in light of 9/11 occurring less than three years later. There are numerous noble Arab-Americans, and the movie emphasizes this, but – let's be honest – there are also Islamic whack-jobs in our midst who enjoy blowing themselves up with as many innocents as possible so they can go home to Allah and 72 virgins (or whatever).

I like the fact that General Devereaux (Willis) isn't a black or white character and viewers can have completely different views about whether or not he's actually a villain. The movie shows that he's a professional soldier who warns the governmental leaders exactly what would happen under martial Law, a suspension of all civilian rights guaranteed under the constitution, clearly cautioning them that they might not like the form of medicine martial law dishes out. But it's a desperate situation and they give him the go-ahead, so he offers up exactly what he said he would give. He has his methods to protect his country and performs them with conviction. The terrorists were killing masses of innocents and he's commissioned to stop it, which is what he does, PC or not. Does this make him evil? These are questions the movie provokes and you'll have to answer them for yourself.

This is a quality movie that frankly addresses relevant topics and tries to be fair and balanced, but it sorta shoots itself in the foot at the end. Read the spoiler commentary below for details.

The film runs 116 minutes and was shot in New York City with a couple scenes in California.

GRADE: B-

***SPOILER ALERT*** DON'T READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM

One of the main points of the movie is that it's wrong to mistreat Muslim-Americans by profiling them, rounding them up and subjecting them to investigation outside normal procedures because it's equivalent to the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2. There are two problems with this: (1.) It isn't the same issue. Interning the Japanese was wrong because the government was rounding them up based on their ETHNIC HERITAGE. The Feds would've interned German-Americans if they used the same logic. The issue with Muslim terrorism isn't ethnicity, but rather religion. Statistically, most terrorists against the US are Muslims of Middle Eastern descent. Therefore "profiling" them is simply acting in accord with statistics. That's just cold hard logic, not racism. By contrast, interning Japanese-Americans during WW2 wasn't logical.

(2.) More importantly, the movie undermines itself by having Samir turn out to be a radical suicide bomber. This revelation demonstrates that peaceful Muslims can't be trusted, just as the Army and their supporters believed (in the movie). There's no reason to assume that any of the rank-and-file Muslims depicted couldn't have turned out to be terrorists just like Samir. This being the case, the army was right to intern and interrogate them. As you can see, the movie takes a noble position and then inexplicably contradicts it.
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An amazing movie, especially in light of recent events
handle18 October 2001
Warning: Contains minor plot spoilage

When I first watched the movie a year or so ago, the first thing that really caught my attention in the beginning of the movie was the first explosion. There was no ludicrous running from the explosion like you see in most action movies. Washington's character blinked because of the explosion flash and then was thrown on his tail by the force of the detonation. Because he was facing the explosion he received a bloody noise from the air concussion (before even hitting the ground), and he couldn't hear after the explosion. They also showed him in shock right after the explosion. The impact of the explosion on inanimate objects was also more accurate. You could clearly see the inverse falling off effect of distance from the explosion.

Glass shattering was shown in slow motion at the same slow mention speed as the fireball moving in the background. These are details of things that happen in real life that I haven't seen in any other movie, action or otherwise. And that was a very small thing about the movie that impressed me.

I think the story line is extremely plausible and appropriately complex (which I thought before 9/11). The analysis of the culture of the terrorists was very accurate compared to most movies dealing with the topic. The terrorists weren't demonized and their motives were examined and explained in a well balanced way.

I think Bruce Willis does the movie a disservice, although it is his history of action and mediocre characters that hurts the movie, not his actual acting in the movie. The complexity of his character is interesting. The movie leaves it up to interpretation whether General Devereaux is really reluctant to impose martial law on New York, or whether he just tells the congressional committee what they want to hear in order to get himself in. Devereaux is definitely the "bad guy" in the movie, but not because he is portrayed as the nexus of evil, but because his world-view allows him to rationalize actions that are un-American.

One of the biggest criticisms that I have seen of the movie is that the end of the movie is not believable because of the martial law that is imposed on New York City. But if two or three more significant attacks happen to New York City, I won't be surprised at all if martial law is declared there.

I always thought the movie was excellent, but with the events in recent days, the impact of the movie has definitely ratcheted up a few notches.
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7/10
one of the most thrilling and controversial film of the year
MisterWhiplash1 May 2000
Edward Zwick's The Siege is a well made suspense film about the de-construction of NYC. Not literally, but by arab terorists that set bombs off all over the City and Denzel Washington (great as always) plays a FBI agent who is trying to catch the units that are doing this. Annette Benning is also good as a foreigner who has a link to the arabs. But soon, this leads up to martial law in NYC, and army man Bruce Willis (also very good as a stone figured tyrant) begins to get arabs into concentration camps. This is pretty controversial in and of itself becauase this seems to be where NYC is headed. Director/writer Zwick knows that, and makes that knowledge into one hell of a good thriller.
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History Squeezed out of Prisoners
tedg7 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this when it came out. At the time, it bombed. Critics -- and I remember in particular the critic in my local paper -- said it was shrill and unrealistic. The military would never torture prisoners, never suspend the constitution, never round up Muslim men in unlawful pens, and most of all never do so because that's what's at the root of the terror food chain. We would never conduct an extraordinary rendition.

I myself saw this and felt the same: it was just too unrealistic and seemed to unnecessarily hammer a point. Surely we all knew that what makes America special is its consistent rule of law. That was then. This is now. Now we know the president authorized torture, ignored the law. We know the military and CIA did these very things. We also know irrefutably that there are two orders of magnitude more terrorist recruits now because of these offenses.

I often watch old movies and enjoy the metastory that rides on how its context has changed between when it was made and when I see it. This is only ten years old, but what a ten years! Seeing the World Trade Center in the city shots makes it all the more powerful.

Both then and now, the acting seems off; its always apparent that these people are reading lines in between sitting in canvas chairs. Also at both poles of watching, the pacing, the plodding speeches and the ersatz explosions still seem poor. It is, really a bad movie in all the ordinary respects.

But watching it now has the same effect I would get from watching "Plan 9" after a monster octopus under alien influence had actually attacked me.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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5/10
OK for what it is - another Coke and popcorn feelgood epic
patrick powell29 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
When watching films such as The Siege, it is always best to remind yourself every five minutes that you are watching a film, that this is fiction and that the whole exercise ultimately has one purpose: to make money.

Edward Zwick, the film's producers, his scriptwriters, his cast and the myriad of professionals who make it all possible from the lighting director and sound man to the catering crew and the crimpers are direct descendants of the good folk who many years ago sang songs, told jokes, juggled and generally did what they thought would entertain us in our music halls and vaudeville theatres. And as direct descendants they have the same motive, nothing more.

That is not to say that some theatrical art - including films - can't touch upon serious subjects in an intelligent way, but the vast majority of them don't and don't want to: they merely want to entertain. Nothing particularly wrong with that, of course, and as entertainment The Siege is fine if that is your bag, with fine performances from Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis and Tony Shalhoub. It has to be said, though, that none of that quartet really pushes out the boat. Each does his or her standard schtick and could more or less do it all on auto-pilot. And for a film with a cast of several hundred, theirs are the only faces you will recognise.

As a piece of art - can't believe I used the phrase, but there you go - The Siege falls at the first hurdle: despite the fine speech Washington delivers at the end when he arrests Bruce Willis renegade general in which he seems to outline what is honest and wholesome about the United States of America and why we should all be eating apple pie and building white wicker fences around our home, this is 24 carat hokum.

The premise, that someone like Willis's renegade general might want to manipulate an extreme situation in order to introduce martial law in New York - though quite why isn't at all clear - might be an interesting one to examine in a play or a film, but The Siege isn't at all that kind of film. And even as 'that kind of film', it has rather glaring flaws: what is Bruce Willis up to and why is he up to it? What is driving him to manipulate a situation so that martial law is imposed in Brooklyn and he can be top dog answerable to no one for a while? We aren't told and nothing is even hinted at. And would not such a situation in which every last American Arab man in Brooklyn is rounded up and interned - and the HQ of the FBI in New York is blown to kingdom come with 600 losing their lives, for goodness sake! - have piqued the interest of not just of the rest of the US but of the rest of the world? It most certainly would and it most certainly would have had an impact on what took place. But no: our four stars - sorry, main protagonists are allowed to carry on rushing around New York with barely a flicker of interest from the rest of the world, although the media, in the form of several helicopters ghoulishly hovering over the latest scene of outrage, do get a look in.

Is the CIA really operating on such a tight budget that the only representative of its interests it can marshal is a lone female agent (no doubt to whoops of joy from the sisters), and furthermore one who is, quite literally, sleeping with the enemy? Apparently so. And by the way, a Muslim fanatical enough to cause mayhem in New York and one portrayed as 'devout' would most certainly not swig champagne (or white wine, it isn't clear which) and smoke cannabis after a bout of sex outside marriage on which devout Muslims are rather strict, I gather.

Denzel Washington does what Denzel Washington always does best which is to take command of a situation so thoroughly and so intelligently that you keep asking yourself: now why aren't that man's talents put to better use in the real world - I'm sure he could knock the administration/the Fed/the economy/the UN into better shape. Just look at that jawline and his cool under pressure. Sadly for the world (though not sadly for the film-going public) Washington has sold his soul to Tinseltown.

So forget the 'issues' involved and the subject matter which seem to hint at greater things, The Siege is, and wants to be, nothing more than a solid two hours in a cinema entertaining folk who might be bored with the night's TV schedule. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it does explain why, despite the high production values, there's far less to it than meets the eye. This is one for the Coke and popcorn punter who don't care to think very much.
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6/10
Prophetic but not great
Virginia_Farmboy1 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"The Siege" is a movie that, in some ways, is prophetic. Arab terrorists attack the US. The President orders a crackdown. Arabs are rounded up, much like what happened after 9/11. All the same cliches are used--"terrorist killers," "our way of life is threatened," "make no mistake--we will hunt them down." Even people's patriotism is questioned.

However, being prophetic does not make it a good movie. It would have been more interesting to have had the main character be Tony Shalhoub's character, an Arab, who has to deal with his son's incarceration. It would have been better to eliminate Samir's character as well (SPOILERS AHEAD) and not have him talk about why he's a terrorist before the tradition Hollywood shootout ending. In real life, there is no one terrorist leader who survives and then fights the hero as he is about to carry out an attack. Lastly, (SPOILERS AGAIN) it would have been a nice touch had Bruce Willis' general not been arrested, which would probably not happen in real life, but instead promoted for his patriotism, and the ending taken place at the President's ball with a (verbal) confrontation between the hero and Willis in tuxedos.

There are many more things I could say to improve the siege. For one, maybe more believable writing. However, I believe that the movie was worth seeing, if only for the parallels between 1998's view on terrorism and what comes after real attacks in 2001.

**1/2 stars our of ****
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3/10
When Troops Go Marching In
thinker16916 June 2006
The time? Apparently, the present. The place, a major metropolitan city in the Eastern section of the United States. The situation? A possible terrorist plot which threatens the city and it's populace. Up against this ominous threat, two seemingly benign official entities of the government pit themselves first against the enemy, then against one another to ferret out and defeat the looming threat. At first, things go well enough, but soon, the two arms of the government square off against each other. If one believe the movie, then one accepts the premise, that Denzel Washington as a police officer could go up against a standing army led by Anthony Hubbard (Bruce Willis) as Major General William Devereaux. Unable to stop the imminent threat by conventional means, Martial Law is declared. This leads eventually to a personal confrontation between the cop and the general, In the end, if one believes the fanciful outcome, the general with his great army and legitimate powers is trumped by the one police officer. **
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A bizarre prediction of 9/11/2001 ???
gorillasuitguy23 September 2001
The movie won't get any nomination or prize, but it's worth seeing if you want to meditate about a time when US talked about the 'Greatest Terrorist Attack in America' only in a movie.

The first time I saw this movie I really got immersed into the plot, it was a great drama displaying the deployment of Army forces to protect the US integrity versus the struggle of the reason and the law to protect it's citizens rights... evidently the Arab-Americans would be angry about the stereotypes displayed, but also the Hispanic have been portrayed at Hollywood with the same old stereotypes thousands of times (which BTW it's boring), anyway, at the end it's all for the show and to make the movie believable... however it was ALL fiction.

But in the morning of Sept 11, 2001. The first thought that came to my mind (yet in disbelief), as I saw on CNN, planes falling all over NYC and in DC, was.. 'that' movie!

Days after the WTC Attack I saw this movie again and obviously (to my regret) I found many new things to meditate about, this movie makes an interesting remark about what almost every US government have done at least one time, the so called 'shift of policy', and this is the key to the whole mess (in the movie and in real life), US government can't pretend to look after some 'groups, organizations or people' when they are useful to their interest and when they no longer need them just dispose then like trash, remember, 'what goes around, comes around...', sure, I totally condemn terrorism, but as we can learn from the movie, this kind of behavior gives birth to extreme hate and enemies, and this is (or was) NO fiction.

You can't develop relations on a double moral standard, like the character played by Bening, sooner or later the price has to be paid, so, it's better to stand beside those who help you always, not only for pure convenience, because no one wants a 'friend' like that, right? This can be the great moral of the movie.

Be honest, construct relations on loyalty, learn to be tolerant, please stop thinking that US is the world, and tear down to the stereotypes, but mainly, be humble!

Personally I think it's a great movie that sadly portrays some similar events that a few years later (2001) became real, one can't be blame if at one point it's mistakenly thinking that this movie was an inspiration to the WTC Attacks.

Mr. Denzel Washington's (FBI Agent Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard) performance is powerful (as usual), the rest of the supporting cast did a good job too, Annette Bening's (Elise Kraft/Sharon Bridger) seems a little 'old' for the role but does an excellent job though.
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5/10
Just more Hollywood product for consumption.
oneguyrambling17 February 2012
The Siege was released in 1998. It most likely was released on DVD sometime in 99 or at the latest 2000. It stars ever reliable Denzel Washington and one of my favourite actors Bruce Willis. I must've seen the DVD cover 127 times over the last decade.

I knew all the above facts very well, yet I never watched it until a couple days ago.

Why? Because, like Outbreak and many other films of the era, I knew the film back to front without watching it. I knew The Siege to be a terrorist themed film with obvious ethnic and socio-political issues that confronted obviously controversial topics in a brave way.

I repeat I thought that before I watched the film, and I was spot on. The Siege is everything I knew it was for a decade without the unneeded benefit of proof.

This is neither good nor bad, just the facts.

In five years time I will walk past a DVD shelf with The Siege on it and think 'yep I've seen it, then without any specifics I will re-think the thoughts of the first paragraph.

In this case Denzel is FBI Agent Anthony Hubbard, his second in command is played by Tony Shalhoub, who for the purpose of this review (and the film) I might point out is of 'middle eastern' descent.

When a terrorist threat arrives in New York City (yes the film was unfortunately prescient) it is swiftly identified as being of middle Eastern descent. When a bus filled with people goes BOOM NYC goes into lockdown mode, with the threat of more attacks looming the terror threat level goes to… whatever colour we think middle Eastern people are while still remaining PC.

With everyone on tenterhooks and ethnic tensions simmering an expert on middle Eastern affairs from another government department steps into the fray. Her name is Alyse Kraft (Annette Bening), and she tentatively teams up with Hubbard and co, providing advice and occasional hints, without ever really seeming to 'lock in' to the task.

After a series of bombings the army is consulted, lead by General Bill (Bruce Willis), and the politicians run a merry dance trying to decide how to deal with this fiendish threat to the American view of freedom, and if armed intervention is necessary.

The Siege presses every button that you think it will and shows all sides of the story – from the American side of the story that is – that means people from the middle East are neither all good or all bad (except the 'all bad' ones), and *GASP* Americans can be pricks and racists too, I would never have thought! The film was chugging along nicely in a mainstream formulaic way, without eliciting any extreme response from me, until the final 20 minutes got altogether preachy and ultimately verged into frankly ludicrous territory.

Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. In the end The Siege is hardly essential viewing, you won't learn anything from it unless you have been living under a common sense rock for 15 years, it is merely a movie. A well made one, but no more than that.
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One more good idea turned into a bad movie
Lucifer-1215 February 1999
Yawn! So this is supposed to be an Action-Thriller?? Gimme a break boys, this was neither Action nor Thriller, it was just plainly disappointing. The idea of "what might happen if martial law is declared nowadays" is great and it could make a really great movie...just why didn't they make one? First of all, the title-giving event, the declaration of martial law and Bruce Willis moving into the city is located somewhat near the end of the movie. Beforehand, there's not much to see, because of all the big, bad explosions the terrorists cause, we only get to see one bus-explosion of the kind you will find in every late-afternoon action series as well. The only interesting thing to see in this first part is that Oscar-Winner Denzel Washington is being matched out big time by that guy (I forgot his name, sorry) who plays his collegue (whatever his name was: He's great). When finally the siege occurs it does not deliver any action but it just rounds up to a nazi-like imprisonment of most of the arab society in (nice little irony) a football stadium. Finally, after holding the typical Why-I-bacame-a-fanatic-bomber speech (and after shooting the Annette Bening character which , in this movie unlike her other is a real treat) he gets shot by Washington - that's it. Really original, ain't it? I'll give this one a two as a punishment for screwing up on such a great idea!
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No depth, poor end
Syd-1418 December 1998
Warning: Spoilers
The action in this film was very good. No doubt. However, I left the theater feeling like if something was incomplete. I personally didn´t like the ending. Overall, I felt that -despite the modern topic- the film lacked depth.

Positive: The shots of the bus exploding. The terrible premonition and the tremble felt at the bar upon the explosion at the Broadway theater. The maimed arm of the girl coming down the stairs in shock at the same theater. The anguish displayed by the Arab FBI agent as his son is taken prisoner.

Negative: Not enough realism in some of Washington´s reactions (upon seeing the maimed girl at the theater, he almost cries, which I find inconsistent with the anger and coolness shown while killing the school´s kidnapper or co-ordinating his forces after the bus blast). The verbal fight at the end between Washington and Willis, I felt I was watching Crimson Tide again with a slimmer Gene Hackman. The rapid, inconclusive, and empty ending. It looked as if the writer of the movie got bored all of a sudden and got up to watch David Letterman. The classic, boring, and overplayed scene toward the end of the Arab agent finding his son amid hundreds of people and hugging him as if he was coming out of a Nazi camp (if that was the comparison intended, it failed miserably). Bruce Willis, strange, incoherent character, probably a miscast, it didn´t scare me or triggered any respect on my part as a well dressed general.

Overall, a nice film to watch due to the action, but one of those you never have to bother watching again.
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Formulaic and boring beyond belief.
Gong529 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Only the wonderful Anette Benning is worth it. The script is slow,boring and formulaic, and so cliché ridden. Strictly for (some) teenagers and morons, lots of them around.

Only Hollywood can mass produce such stinkers. Another day another dollar for some fat exec cat in Hollywood. Seeing this after 9/11 it isn't even eerie? what is more shocking this unreal junk or the terrorist attack? These propagandising films straight out of the offices and the wallets of that organisation and the Israeli lobby of course, and then there's the real deal.

"They are gonna hit the march?", one character says, "Can you imagine a better target?" Well it seems actual terrorists had a better imagination, which says a lot about the screenwriters.

To be honest there is a point to be made in that the Americans train their terrorists abroad and then unleash them upon themselves, takes a lot to be world bully, and someone's had to do it. But this simple point doesn't have to make for such bad films.

And of course this is whitewashed and watered down because the bad US general is arrested for the torture and murder of an arab suspect, not that much luck for any court marshal in Guantanamo...

Washington gives the umpteenth performance of that one character he plays all the time, or about 95% of the time to be precise.

Mr. Monk has a role as a side kick too, he's a good actor, but after monk he's too typecast to make him palatable.

Like I said Ms. Benning is a wonderful actress, too bad she didn't wear a bullet proof vest.
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9/10
A Very Prescient View of Post-Terrorism America
gavin694225 October 2007
Islamo-fascists (or simply "terrorists") have taken their game to a whole new level, striking schools and even the FBI office. This film shows a fictional version of what happens when America meddles in foreign affairs, when the foreigners push back and how we would have to give up civil liberties to protect our freedoms. (Or, more properly, why we shouldn't have to.)

Denzel Washington is Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard, and like all his action roles, he is a strong and sturdy leader. I love Washington so much. I warmed up to him after seeing "Man on Fire" and this goes above and beyond that as the best role I've seen him in. Annette Bening is a CIA operative, and she continues her streak of starring in roles that annoy me (such as the one in "American President"). Other than "American Beauty", I can do without her...

Bruce Willis is Major General William Devereaux and is quite good at being both pragmatic and tyrannical as he needs to be -- in the same role. We see his "Die Hard" persona more refined into a leadership spot -- commanding others to do what McClane's commanders would have him do. It's like a promotion. Tony Shalhoub is Agent Frank Haddad, and this is his best role (and when does he ever disappoint?). Aasif Mandvi ("The Daily Show") also appears as Khalil Saleh.

This film works as an action-drama. Plenty of frustrated romance and explosions, as well as gunfights and tense situations where a bus might explode (where is Keanu Reeves when you need him). So, even if you have no interest in American history or politics, you're probably going to appreciate the running and jumping and shooting.

History and politics buffs will enjoy it even more. We have the history of what America did in Iraq after the Gulf War (hint: we let Saddam slaughter his own people). And we have a sneak-peak of what would happen if a major terrorist attack hit New York. Muslims and Arabs are rounded up and all seen as suspects, liberties are brought to a minimum and there is a debate between waging a war and a police action -- with war winning the debate. I think if anything this film gave America too much credit for being sympathetic to Muslims. But at least we don't have concentration camps where we store innocent Arabs (unless you count Guantanamo Bay).

This film flew under my radar and I had not been aware of it until some friends pointed me in the right direction. With 9/11 and Iraq now having happened, this film gives a great overview. Along with "Syriana", "Jarhead" and "Three Kings" this will give a good starting point of how to view the world and America's role in it, at least from a fictional point of view.
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10/10
Proven possibe TODAY
kenandraf11 September 2001
Today was the day the terrorist attack on the PENTAGON and the WORLD TRADE CENTER and other places which was more sunbstancial and incredible compared to the attacks depicted in this movie which looks amateurish in comparison to the real attacks.A good wake up call to all who snickered and dismissed this film as UNLIKELY and HOLLYWOOD FANTASY.Nothing is impossible and I also would like to say that most media ART IS A REFLECTION of reality.The CIA and other world intelligence branches can only do so much.Most of their work comes AFTER the attack.Preventing an attack is next to impossible if freedom is to be had by the masses.See this film and learn.Great film although a ittle improvement with screenpay would have taken this movie to classic status.Only for people who are interested in spy films and politics.The fans of the lead actors will enjoy this film as well for their performances as adequate,particularly Washington.......
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6/10
Raises a lot of questions, doesn't it?
Robert J. Maxwell17 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It's not just another action flick, although there are shootings and explosions. But -- well, look here. The most effective explosion of all is off screen. The FBI agents in New York have just thwarted an Arab terrorist bombing and they're celebrating in an uptown nightclub, getting smashed and dancing. Denzel Washington (FBI) and Annette Bening (CIA) are slow dancing and a tender moment of accommodation is coming up when we hear a rumble on the sound track. The music stops. The rumble grows louder and the room begins to shiver physically. A few glasses shatter. The hanging decorations sway. But it isn't an earthquake at all. It's another terrorist bombing that has just obliterated a soiree involving New York's Who's Who.

That's a pretty good directorial decision. And it's not the only one, although there are no self-indulgent displays of directorial pryotechnics either.

The story is straightforward. There are a couple of cells of Islamic terrorists operating out of Brooklyn. (Atlantic Avenue has to be seen to be believed.) A couple of increasingly disastrous bombings prompts the president to impose martial law under the war powers act (?). The general in charge of the army is an unyielding but not insensible Bruce Willis. For most of the film he stands at parade rest, squints, and snaps out orders. But he's not a military robot. He's wise. When he is asked at a conference if the army can be mobilized to occupy the city, he points out that the army is a broad sword, not a scalpel. Yes, he can impose order on the streets but only at great cost. He begs, he "implores" the committee to reconsider using the military in a role for which they were never trained.

There's a lesson in the film too, though I'm not sure it's the one the producers were aiming at. Most of the Moslems we see are peaceful and law abiding, but they're increasingly angry at their treatment by the police and by Christians as they become victims of hate crimes. (We can be thankful that the movie was mostly wrong on that point.) But there are a handful of fanatics who manage to find passages in the Koran to justify their bloodshed.

The point is that every charter document -- the Koran, the Bible, the Constitution -- must by its nature be vague and ambiguous enough to be interpreted differently under different circumstances. That's why they last so long. If they weren't subject to contradictory interpretations they'd go out of date pronto. Imagine if one of the Ten Commandments read, "The Fed Will Never Raise Interest Rates Above Six Percent." Or the Constitution simply said, "No private ownership of guns -- period." The Koran has the same ambiguity built into it. I know Moslems who are devout, who pray and read the Koran regularly, who find nothing but joy and comfort in it, and who hate sectarian conflict as they hate all violence. It's unjustified to think of the Koran as only sanctioning warfare against infidels. Like most charter documents it sanctions pretty much whatever you want it to.

What an interesting movie. Denzel Washington, no bleeding heart, hears Willis discuss varying ways of extracting information from a suspected terrorist who is sitting naked in the torture room. There's beating, of course, and there's electric shock and sleep deprivation, and then of course there's cutting "but that can get messy." Washington is horrified and shouts at the General that if they use torture on their helpless prisoner they're throwing away the Constitution and the terrorists win. Interesting point. Arguable but interesting.

Worth seeing. It's heartbreaking to notice the twin towers in the background of some shots. (This was 1998.)
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9/10
An intelligent film
Tanya-314 January 1999
I think that a lot of people who came to see this film would have been expecting a action film (due to the presence of Bruce Willis). If so, these people would inevitably have been disappointed.

The Siege is instead an intelligent thriller, which tries to show just how things could go badly wrong if America ever truly faced a terrorist threat on its own shores. It even puts across the valid view about the Iraqis, which is that we supported these people and then dumped them when they weren't convenient anymore. It takes an unusual line in that in reality the terrorists aren't the true threat, the military is because they have removed peoples freedom.

Good acting by all the principles with no flagging of pace. An excellent film.
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