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siege poster

The Siege

Starring Denzel Washington, Annette Bening and Bruce Willis
Screenplay by Lawrence Wright and Menno Meyjes & Edward Zwick
Directed by Edward Zwick
Website: www.thesiege.com

IN SHORT: Cranky liked it.

Hollywood's obsession with destroying New York continues with a good popcorn flick called The Siege. The fun is all in the star power onscreen and while the suspense level doesn't reach the "can't eat the popcorn" stage, it's a pretty good ride.

The Siege pulls its background story out of real events and rumors that won't die: have Americans kidnaped terrorist suspects to bring them into US territory and jurisdiction? The Siege opens with such a heist, of an Iraqi Sheik named Ahmed Bin Talal. Second question: What if the terrorists were organized enough, and financed well enough to bring the battle to our cities, as they have in Athens and other European cities?

Cranky doesn't want to think that much. Though the captured sheik is the reason for the terrorist attacks we see in the flick, he vanishes from the movie almost immediately. The terrorist cels are never seen or heard, and we are deprived of the joy of knowing who the bad guy is way before he (or she) goes up in a pyrotechnic blast. The lack of a face to pin a bullseye on is the only weakness in The Siege.

Anthony "Hub" Hubbard (Denzel Washington) heads an FBI/NYPD anti-terrorism task force. His right hand man Frank Haddad (Tony Shalhoub) is a Lebanese, 20 years in America 10 years in the bureau. A bus bombing in Brooklyn brings him face to face with CIA spook Elise Kraft (Annette Bening) and later with the mastermind behind the sheik's abduction, Army General William Devereaux (Bruce Willis). Hub doesn't like Elise. Elise doesn't like the General and everyone is focused on the sole connection to the mysterious terrorist cels, a Palestinian professor named Samir Nazhde (Sami Bouajila). Samir helped get terrorists into this country. His brother did the martyr bit in an Israeli movie theater. And he's sleeping with Elise.

Very quickly we discover that everything that appears to be one thing is really something else.

After Brooklyn, the terrorists bomb a Broadway theater. Then they go after the children and, failing that, they take out the FBI headquarters itself. 600 dead.

With the faces of the enemy unknown, the script softly deals with all the political repercussions of dealing with these lunatics. The question is posed again and again in different ways: how far will you go, how far will American citizens let their government go to take down these terrorists? Noted conservative Arianna Huffington, of course, is one of the first TV talking heads to insist that the Army invade the city and flush out the terrorist cels, and whatever rights get squashed will just have to wait.

As far as the Devereaux is concerned, it is a bad idea. In his own words to a Congressional subcomittee: "I implore you. Do not consider this as an option." but Congress does and when he moves in it is with all the subtlety of a hunters using a sledgehammer to take out a cockroach. Detention camps are set up. Arab males are grabbed off the street, and from their homes. One of them is Haddad's son. Now you consider; what if the bad guys were Black? Or Asian? Or Jewish? How far would you let the government go before they get to your particular subgroup. Discuss and debate...

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Siege, he would have paid . . .


Solid date flick level, aimed more for the guys.

The bright star rising in this flick is the performance of Tony Shalhoub. Shalhoub continues to impress Cranky with his run of top notch characters and his ability to inject humor into a humorless scenes.

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