The Siege (1998)


Hollywood’s new favourite bad guys, Islamic terrorists, make a series of attacks on New York City and FBI agent Denzel Washington squabbles with NSC agent Annette Bening over jurisdiction while trying to find and catch them.

All very well, but when Bruce Willis’ “renegade” general steps in to occupy the city I begin to smell a political fish. With rent-a-Democrat Denzel accompanied by loyal and patriotic Arab-American sidekick Tony Shalhoub, quotes from the constitution and Bill Clinton soundbites it all looks very worthy and even-handed. But if you read between the lines, it’s basically saying that if patriotic Americans don’t let their country’s heroic spooks do their job (ie. whatever they want) then the jar-head Gestapo will have to declare martial law. So life imitates art as the military are made scapegoats for the mistreatment of Islamic prisoners and the politicians and makers of American foreign policy are nowhere to be seen. Convenient.

As for the “thriller” aspect, it’s efficiently done but more than a little dull. There are the usual chases and explosions, complete with button-pushing slow motion aftermaths full of weeping, bloodied women and children and Denzel occasionally gambols around, gun in hand but ultimately it’s rather less exciting than your average episode of 24.

If it’s brains you want try Syriana or Body Of Lies instead, because The Siege manages to be both simplistic and dull.




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