Review by Gordon Justesen
Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis, Tony Shaloub, Sami Bouajila, David
Director: Edward Zwick
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 116 Minutes
Release Date: June 9, 2009
ďAre you questioning my patriotism?Ē
ďIím questioning your judgment.Ē
Itís funny how oneís opinion of a film changes over time. When I first saw The Siege over a decade ago, I honestly didnít think much of it. I remember some parts of it being effective, but as a whole I just didnít find it very memorable.
Having seen it a couple of times since my first viewing, Iíve come across a rare case of having my opinion of a film increased. Much of this has to do with the notion that this thriller about terrorism hitting American soil, and the effect it has on laws and the rights of citizens, was released three years before 9/11. You canít help but see this film in a new light, especially since a lot of what happens in the story isnít so far off from our post-9/11 reality.
The movie depicts a terrorist attack in New York City. A city bus explodes, killing many passengers. It is likely the work of a Middle East organization, since the attack comes in the wake of the sudden disappearance of a Bin Laden-like figure. The FBIís terror task force, headed by special agent Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington), closes in on all suspects in the city with known ties to terrorism and fundamentalist groups.
Hubbard gets some unexpected aid in his investigation from Elise Kraft (Annette Bening), who works for the CIA. It turns out that one of the suspects Hubbard is pursuing happens to be working undercover for Elise. Not only that, but she is sleeping with him in exchange for intel, of course.
After taking down two suspects who fit the profile, it seems that Hubbard and his team have made the city safer. However, more attacks occur throughout the city. First a movie theater gets bombed, followed by a hostage situation involving school children, and then the most devastating attack; the bombing of FBI headquarters in NYC.
This motivates the President to execute a controversial order. The military, led by Major General William Devereaux (Bruce Willis), is sent into the heart of the Big Apple to declare a state of martial law. This results in the Brooklyn Bridge being sealed off and every single man of Arab descent in the city being thrown into a prisoner camp.
It is this portion of the movie that is frighteningly real and cannot be ignored by any viewer. As we see New York City become divided amongst citizens, and young men being robbed of their freedom in such a way, the words ďPatriot ActĒ kept running through my mind. I have to think all that were involved with the film had to be shocked beyond all recognition once they realized it had somehow come close to predicting the future.
The film is directed by Edward Zwick, and though itís nowhere near his usual incredible fare, he still manages to make an uber-tight thriller. A lot of the filmís power comes from the fact that Zwick used authentic NYC locations. I can only imagine how unsettling it must have been to film the scenes with the military patrolling the city streets, filled with angry demonstrators.
Denzel Washington delivers yet another fiery and passionate performance as Hubbard. Who better to play a heroic FBI agent than one of the most charismatic and likable actors of all time? After Glory and Courage Under Fire, this serves as a reminder that Washington and director Zwick are a riveting combination.
Though Iíve stated that the movie has improved over time, the one problem that hasnít changed is in the performance of Bruce Willis. His character eventually becomes the villain, and a most despicable one at that, and yet the usually intense Willis brings no life to the role at all. Watch the many heated exchanges between him and Washington, and thereís no question which actor eats the other one up for breakfast.
That one flaw aside, The Siege is a most effective action thriller that Iím sure will leave quite an impact on anyone who watches it. Itís unfortunate that it took a real life tragedy in order to appreciate it more. But the mere fact that a good portion of the story details ended up mirroring real life, in a Nostradamus like fashion, is a film rarity and serves as a good enough reason to check it out once more.
The last time I saw this movie was on a non-anamorphic DVD release, which should indicate how poor the presentation was. So it goes without saying that Foxís Blu-ray upgrade is a most superb improvement. The film looks incredibly effective in the 1080p, which allows Roger Deakinsí cinematography to leave the desired impact. Some portions are a bit soft, but never distracting. There is much detail given to the New York City setting, and both daytime and nighttime sequences look downright remarkable.
Take a regular 5.1 mix on a 1999 DVD release and upgrade it to a DTS HD mix for the Blu-ray, and you get a masterful powerhouse of sound! I found myself more engrossed on this viewing than Iíd ever been before, thanks largely to the intensity supplied by the lossless sound. Explosions and gunfire galore are without question the ingredients that set this presentation ablaze. The score by Graeme Revell gets tremendous playback, and every ounce of the dialogue is captured succinctly.
Iím puzzled as to why none of the extras from the recent Special Edition DVD, which included a commentary and multiple featurettes, were carried over to this release. All we get are trailers for this and other Fox titles, including The Edge, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Flight of the Phoenix.
What started as just another action thriller released in 1998 has become a much more effective film in the years since. The Siege gets a tremendously good treatment in Blu-ray form, providing the best reason to check this film out if you have yet to see it.