Prior to 2001, bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 led to many speculations concerning a terrorist attack on US soil. Not to be left out, Hollywood decided to try their luck at such an idea when in 1998, “The Siege” starring Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis was released. Whether this movie was a foreshadowing to events following is still left for speculation. Directed by Edward Zwick, “The Siege” follows FBI agents Anthony Hubbard, played by Denzel Washington, and Frank Haddad, played by Tony Shalhoub as they try to stop the terrorist plots of many independent terrorist cells within New York City. This movie is not without many different elaborate subplots within the movie, such as the miscommunication between government agencies and the apparent stereotyping of a certain Arab speaking demographic in Brooklyn specifically.
This extensive, almost two hour movie leaves nothing up to the imagination. There were moments ranging from great to downright questionable throughout the movie, which made it kind of hard to sit through. Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis, playing Major General William Devereaux, carry the entire cast on their shoulders and valiantly try to succeed while doing so. Unfortunately, there are too many characters who do not carry their weight, and the movie suffers because of it. The entire cast makes this movie seem scripted, while Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis bring a sense of realism to a topic that already feels real. Just the fact that the movie takes place within New York makes this movie real, but the other cast members makes viewers realize that it’s just a movie.
This movie could have been shorter. From the struggles between the FBI and CIA to catch the same terrorists to the fact that there were four terror cells introduced to the movie within the first hour can make “The Siege” something to watch only if you have too much time on your hands. Six terror cells within one movie is too much; not even “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” was this unnecessarily elaborate. The perception of time is also skewed in the movie. The movie can lead one to believe that the events happen within a span of weeks, until you realize that the time between the beginning of the movie to the point where the first cell is eliminated (which happens 20 minutes into the movie) is only 36 hours. Trying to keep up with this movie’s plot can be tedious, and worth giving up on. The entire movie is supposed to take place within two weeks, and it is apparent by just how much information is thrown at the audience throughout the two hour movie.
The musical score in this movie makes the dramatic moments of the sciences pretty easy to predict. There are only two possible outcomes to consider in this movie whenever the music gets louder before each dramatic movie: either the terrorists complete their mission or the FBI succeeds in their assignments.
This movie had good action sequences throughout, and the difference in culture and morals between the Western world and the Middle East is accurately and beautifully portrayed, but there are some glaring instances that can leave viewers scratching their heads.
As the movie progresses, it is revealed that the CIA trains the terrorists that the FBI are trying to stop. Whether or not that is true in real life can be debated, but it surely leaves viewers wondering how valid such a scenario is. Another moment that left me scratching my head, in a negative way, was the negotiation scene in the first couple of minutes of the movie. If Denzel Washington is close enough to a bus when it blows up to be thrown back, the pressure emitting from the blast should not have left him virtually unscathed afterwards. At the very most, Denzel should have died at that point for the movie to retain its realism.
Bruce Willis played the role of a hardened general who will do anything to get the job done beautifully. It reminds me of the role he plays as a cop who does anything to get the job done in “Die Hard” or the former Special Forces agent who has to do whatever it takes to get the job done in “Fifth Element”.
Even if Bruce Willis emerged as the eventual antagonist in this movie, the fact that he has played the same kind of role for most of his life would normally be disappointing, but for “The Siege” he did what he is known for, which clashes with Denzel’s character throughout the latter part of the movie in a way that is worth observing. It is reminiscent of a dominant heavyweight champion (Denzel Washington) clashing with a surprisingly touch challenger (Bruce Willis), but at the end of it all it was Denzel’s brilliant acting that makes this movie even worth looking at.
Despite its many flaws, “The Siege” is actually worth watching once, and I emphasize the word once. The movie pushes the envelope without seemingly offending anybody, and the acting of Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis, as well as the historical context surrounding the movie, brings to light that terrorists are in the minority of every race (like the Ku Klux Klan is a minority amongst Caucasians). If you read too deeply into movies, pass this one up because you will be overloaded with unnecessary information. If you merely want to watch a movie that is thought provoking, watch this only once.