Sunday, September 23, 2007

Enemy of the State

Enemy of the State; thriller, USA, 1998; D: Tony Scott, S: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King, Jason Robards, Jack Black, Jake Busey, Jason Lee, Seth Green, Tom Sizemore

Lawyer Robert Dean will become a guiltless enemy of the state when he by pure chance gets a tape showing that the NSA official Reynolds killed congressman Hammerseley in order to push forward his law about public surveillance of Americans by his organization. Reynolds thus wires Dean and places all available satellites from space to observe him day and night. As a victim of technology, out of money, abandoned and fired, Dean finds his only help in Brill, a former NSA agent who is also on the run from the organization. They team together and start a counterattack on Reynolds. He captures them, but Dean tricks him by telling him his tape is at some mafia king, thus they shoot each other. Dean is proclaimed innocent.

Exciting and sympathetic thriller of tamer caliber, "Enemy of the State" works surprisingly well, even though it has a number of many flaws, from the MTV spot montage of shots that don't last longer than two seconds up to the fact that it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Yet it somehow ended up becoming better than expected, but that's less thanks to it's slick gimmicks and much more to the fact that it had a similar plot and opened the same year as another paranoid movie about absolute surveillance of an individual, "The Truman Show", except that here the main protagonist Dean is aware and struggling against the mean technology, while Truman isn't even aware of his life public as the sky. Tony Scott was never a great director, but this time he managed to deliver a very good film: already when the movie shows the immature experts observing Dean's life, who have a list of bugs they planted on him on their computers (shoes, watch, pants...) does the director manage to make the audience cheer and stand in the defence of the innocent hero, while Will Smith and Gene Hackman are great in the leading roles. Coincidentally, the movie even seems like a bigger, more elaborated and paranoid version of Hackman's similar earlier film, "The Conversation". As mentioned, the movie is flawed and didn't avoid some crowd pleasing moments (Dean figures he is bugged, so he starts taking his clothes off in a hotel room in front of a Chinese couple, and the older lady starts applauding thinking he is a stripper), but the story is original, multi-layered, clever, fast and intriguing, while the finale in which Dean tricks both villains, Reynolds and mafia boss Pintero, by leading them to each other and deceiving them both by letting them think they have each others important tape, is truly one of the most unusual and hilarious solutions to a film in a long time.


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