The Siege


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The Siege
"Edward Zwick has succeeded in turning a contemporary nightmare into a good day's sleep."

Urban terrorism is scary stuff, because you don't know when, or how, it's going to happen. The enemy is everywhere and nowhere. A will-o'-the-wisp. With explosives.

Edward Zwick has succeeded in turning a contemporary nightmare into a good day's sleep. Perhaps he didn't have the money to blow up buildings properly. He is the aftermath man, arriving with dustpan and brush to inspect debris. Also, having no discernible bad guy dissipates tension. Watching the FBI rush about like a headless chicken, waiting for the next atrocity, is a sad reflection on its bad old self.

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Anthony "Hub" Hubbard (Denzel Washington) is New York's anti-terrorist supremo, with Lebanese American, Frank Haddad (Tony Shalhoub), as his Arab-speakng right hand. After a sheik is kidnapped in the Middle East and held by the Americans in an unfurnished dungeon, terrorist groups start erupting in The Big Apple, making a mess of the architecture (bomb damage) and inflicting appalling injuries on elite theatregoers (Broadway first-nighters). A woman with a bad haircut, calling herself Elise Kraft (Annette Bening), keeps popping up, saying she's CIA and has contacts with underground Iraqis, operating out of Brooklyn. Hub tells her to get lost, but somehow she keeps coming back, behaving flirtatiously, suspiciously, enigmatically. She is worse than a nuisance. She is inexplicable.

The plot has no direction. As the nameless bombers continue their destructive campaign, the threat of martial law comes ever closer, with General Devereaux, the army's answer to jackboot diplomacy, waiting in the wings to herd "Wogs" into wire cages. Bruce Willis plays him with an ice pick up his rectum, like the commanding officer Small Soldiers never unpacked. Bad acting is seldom advantageous to a strong storyline, however star-studded, and with a weak one, it is damning.

The ever-dependable Washington does not disappoint, although has little opportunity to do anything but be shocked by the sight of mutilated bodies, angry at the efficiency of Devereaux's torture techniques and seduced by the charms of the insufferable Ms Kraft.

Bening's role is ill-defined and frankly absurd. She overacts like mad, as if insisting upon her right to be there (she has no right, she shouldn't be there). The only person to penetrate Zwick's formulaic artificiality is Shalhoub. He was the good chef in Big Night and the Russian caretaker in Paulie. He never gives less than the whole of himself, which, in this case, is not enough, since Willis's sleepwalking is considered a more valuable asset.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The Siege packshot
After a sheikh is kidnapped by the US, terrorists target New York.
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Director: Edward Zwick

Writer: Lawrence Wright, Menno Meyjes, Edward Zwick

Starring: Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis, Tony Shalhoub, Sami Bouajila, Ahmed Ben Larby, Mosleh Mohamed

Year: 1998

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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