The Siege

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Edward Zwick

REVIEWED: 11-09-98

Of all the images of nightmare and violence in Edward Zwick's timely, tense, ultimately unconvincing The Siege, perhaps the most jolting is that of President Clinton in a TV broadcast declaring war against terrorism following the recent bombings in Africa. Didn't this really happen? Like Clinton's appearance last year in Contact, not to mention his videotape deposition in the Lewinsky case, this blurring of fiction and what was once quaintly referred to as "reality" is probably more subversive of our way of life than any jihad. But The Siege has other issues on its mind as it walks a fine line between exploitation and genuine insight while exploring how efforts to eradicate outside threats to our system can end up being worse than the threats themselves.

Denzel Washington is energetic as Anthony Hubbard, head of the FBI anti-terrorism unit in New York, who's beginning to realize that he's up against more than just a few cells of Arab fanatics -- namely, our own government. A covert operation kidnaps a bin Laden-like Islamic leader, whereupon his followers lay siege to New York City with an escalating series of bombings. Despite an uneasy alliance with shadowy CIA figure Elize Kraft (a sexy and barbed Annette Bening), who takes the concept of sleeping with the enemy literally, Hubbard can't crack the case quickly enough for the disparaged chief executive, who sends in Oliver North-like general William Devereaux (a post-Armageddon, low-key Bruce Willis) with an Army division and the carte blanche of martial law. Little of this holds together in retrospect, and all ends in dutiful speechifying, none of which compares in impact to the stunned horror in Washington's eyes as he witnesses a busload of innocents obliterated, or the sight of a naked man in a lavatory singled out to pay the price.

--Peter Keough

Full Length Reviews
The Siege

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Other Films by Edward Zwick
Courage Under Fire
Legends of the Fall

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