Christmas week – Enemy of the State

Besides taking place during the holidays (thus qualifying it for Christmas week status), Enemy of the State definitely knows if you’ve been naughty or nice.

Enemy of the State

WATCH: Enemy of the State (1998) – Rated R for adult content, graphic language and violence.

“Hotshot Washington lawyer Robert Dean (Will Smith) becomes a victim of high-tech identity theft when a hacker slips an incriminating video into his pocket. Soon, a rogue National Security agent (Jon Voight) sets out to recover the tape — and destroy Dean. Tony Scott directs this breakneck political thriller that co-stars Gene Hackman as an intelligence expert who comes to Dean’s aid.”

Tony Scott directed this tense thriller shortly after Will Smith came off Independence Day. Normally I find that his fast pace and jump cuts detract from the film but in this case they serve the story well. One of the background storylines in this movie is an upcoming vote on a bill that sounds a lot like a portion of The Patriot Act even though this film predates that by many years.

Will Smith is his usual likeable everyman self and Jon Voight is appropriately sinister as a man with an agenda. Gene Hackman does a marvelous update to his character from The Conversation (a very similar film) and steals every scene he is in. The cast is filled with easily recognized character actors giving good performances, many of whom aren’t credited for some reason. Jamie Kennedy and Seth Green play a funny pair of agent/analysts. Jason Robards lends some weight with a brief role as a Senator.

The film is very good but flawed. While the breakneck pacing keeps one from questioning some of the logic holes, the initial killing seems very far-fetched (far too public). The climax comes across as lazy and contrived since it is essentially the same climax as his earlier movie True Romance. Thankfully Tony Scott doesn’t overuse his odd angleĀ  and color-shifted (or bleached) cinematography here – it only gets annoying a bit during a tunnel chase.

The theme of ubiquitous surveillance is wonderfully handled though credit should be given to the aforementioned The Conversation (1974) and The Anderson Tapes (1971) for breaking ground. Overall this is a highly enjoyable film that handles the subject matter in a fun instead of preachy manner. I also love one particular dialogue exchange.

Robert Dean: What the hell is happening?

Brill: I blew up the building.

Robert Dean: Why?

Brill: Because you made a phone call.

People Watch: Look for Tom Sizemore as a mob boss, Jack Black as an analyst, and Gabriel Byrne as an agent.

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