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THE SIEGE

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis
Director:  Edward Zwick
Audio:  DTS, Dolby Digital
5.1, Dolby Surround (English and French)
Video:  Anamorphic
Widescreen 235:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  116 Minutes
Release Date:  December 28, 2000

Film **

  “Just Remember, the more committed side wins.”   

Released in late 1998, The Siege marks the third pairing of director/co-writer Edward Zwick and star Denzel Washington.  After triumphs like Glory and Courage Under Fire, Zwick believed that he would strike pay dirt once again with the over-the-top terrorist thriller The Siege.  He was wrong. 

While there was a lot of hype surrounding the film, it didn’t garner much interest in theaters, averaging in gross only what a run of the mill film of its action/suspense genre would.  I, for one, lured in by the preview that made the movie look appealing, ran to the theater to see it, not suspecting the complete murkiness that would follow. 

Unfortunately, although both the preview and the idea may look good on paper, it loses something in the translation.  The story is a completely absurd take on the role of government agencies, their responses to crisis situations, and reality in general. 

The movie loses no time setting into motion its many conspiracy theories.  The United States, tired of rampant terrorist bombings of our overseas bases, sends in a military team under wooden and stern General Devereaux (Willis), to capture a guy who looks exactly like Osama bin Laden, believed to be the mastermind behind the latest series of bombings.  From this point on, the film loses all credibility. 

My first problem with the movie was that the three main characters seem to have no higher authority to report to.  For example, FBI Agent Hubbard is not only in charge of a whole building full of FBI guys, but also runs around interrogating possible terrorists, negotiates with them when they’re about to blow up a bus, chases after criminals through the street, is the media “spokesperson” for the FBI, and even gets involved in shootouts.  Huh?  Who the hell is controlling this seeming “one man army?”

Certainly not Bruce Willis’ character, who runs off to illegally capture an alleged terrorist in the Middle East on his own authority, yet controls a division of men in the United States, meaning he has nothing to do with that region of the world at all, and would have no reason to even be over there.   

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Zwick, possibly impressed by some of the crazy ramblings of Oliver Stone, or just trying to see how many unrealistic story ideas he could juggle at once, introduces Annette Benning as some sort of CIA agent, with a penchant for sleeping with a Palestine terrorist asset throughout the film.  Supposedly having trained the same terrorists to kill Saddam Hussein many years ago, she now wants to stop them from blowing up New York, doing this by occasionally following Washington’s character around, spouting information about Arab cultures, strangely reminding me of a dumbed down version of “Deep Throat” in the old X-Files episodes.  Of course by what authority she is even there the viewer is never let in on (probably because the writers themselves don’t know either).  Oh, and how could I forget, there’s also supposed to be some sort of chemistry that’s attempted between Washington and Benning, although it fails more miserably than the time in Chemistry I accidentally turned my notebook paper into a flaming object. 

An army division of 10,000 men is then brought in to hunt for the twenty or so terrorists that may be in Brooklyn.  At the helm is a glaring Bruce Willis, who barks orders, mumbles angrily, and makes an attempt at recreating Jack Nicholson’s performance in A Few Good Men.  Another problem I had with this movie is especially pertinent here.  The movie, although it makes no sense, is just a jumble of ideas and themes stolen from other movies.  Even the characters seem like carbon cutouts of the work of a committee:  a lone man fighting against a psychotic general, who with his army, oppresses and brutalizes the people, while the lone man struggles to bring truth and justice.  Just out of curiosity, how often does a movie not make military leaders narrow minded, mentally rigid, and usually just plain stupid?   

The end of the movie is a final exercise in absurdity, with the unchecked authority of Denzel Washington and his FBI agents against the unchecked authority of Willis, basically boiling down to a rip-off of Reservoir Dogs, with everyone pointing guns at everyone else. 

The Siege represents another strong performance by Denzel Washington, yet it just wasn’t enough to save this uneven movie. 

Video ****

The improvement of the new video transfer over the previous release was evident.  Even though this movie mostly used the subdued colors of dark blue, green and black, the new Anamorphic treatment was obvious. 

Colors were bolstered by a fresh looking transfer overall, seen especially in the many explosions and in the wonderful opening shots over the massive deserts of the Middle East.  

Audio ****

 

Another stellar DTS reissue by Fox.  If they keep this up they might become my favorite studio!  Sound was a constant presence throughout this soundtrack, not only through the massive explosions and weapons firing, but also through great shots of New York City, where people are heard speaking and shouting their concerns throughout the soundstage. 

 

The music was also a presence, as Zwick often enjoyed resorting to the ploy of slowing down the film and cranking the film’s dramatic score (I guess since it worked in Glory and Courage Under Fire…oh well…why not stay with what works?).

Supplements *

A trailer?  Come on Fox!  I saw more than one trailer on TV so why not put some more on this DVD?   Why the let down here?  A director commentary would have been nice, to at least help explain some of the logistics in the story.

Summary:

In conclusion, what The Siege lacks in logic, it makes up for in action, with plenty of bombs exploding, guns firing, and actors emoting.  Good for a backdrop of entertainment for you and your friends for a night, but that’s as far as I’d take it.  This one’s a rental.