Film Review Hotline

FILM REVIEW CHOICE
January 1999 issue


Will Smith - under surveillance
5 Stars
ENEMY OF THE STATE

Will Smith interview also in this issue!


Stars: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King, Ian Hart, Gabriel Byrne, Jason Robards, Tom Sizemore
Director: Tony Scott Screenplay:: David Marconi
Certificate: 15 TBCDistributor: Buena Vista
Running Time: 2hrs 08minsOpening Date: December 26

A science-feasibility thriller with knobs on.

Can Will Smith do no wrong? Following the unequivocal success of Bad Boys, Independence Day and Men in Black, Mr Smith is back in another top-flight entertainment that fires on all cylinders. A high-tech variation of The Fugitive, this thrilling cautionary tale opens with a slickly executed murder and just keeps on going.

Smith, keeping his wisecracks to a minimum, plays Robert Clayton Dean, a smart, smooth and happily married lawyer. In the midst of a case involving the Mafia, Dean finds himself plunged into hot water when a chance encounter with an old college friend makes him an inadvertent liability to the National Security Agency.

Fighting to greenlight a new ‘invasion of privacy’ bill, corrupt NSA administrator Thomas Reynolds (Voight) has opposing US congressman Phil Hammersly (Robards) expediently eliminated. However, unbeknownst to Reynolds and his loyal posse of electronics experts, the murder is recorded by a motion-activated wild- life camera. And guess who unknowingly ends up with the incriminating tape?

Breathlessly paced by director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Crimson Tide), Enemy of the State is a muscular, thought-provoking thriller that refuses to let up. Yet even as it highlights a stream of action set pieces, the film remains resolutely credible. It’s also a startling education, as we are bombarded with references to spy satellites, tracers, blimpcams, beacon transmitters and the like. In a world in which a man’s entire life can be unravelled by the sweep of a keyboard, it’s useful to know that copper wire mesh can keep out radio signals and that you can avoid detection from satellites just by not looking up.

Yet all this dynamic mumbo jumbo wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans if the characters ensnared in this relentless technological nightmare weren’t worth spending time with. Will Smith is effortlessly appealing as the increasingly dumbfounded fugitive, while Jon Voight is satisfactorily oily as the executive who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. And Gene Hackman is on especially good form as a retired NSA computer analyst, virtually updating his performance as the surveillance expert in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 The Conversation.

Enemy of the State photo copyright Buena Vista
James Cameron-Wilson
Read our new 22-page cinema review section in this month's Film Review
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