The Siege (1998)
Directed by Edward Zwick
Cast: Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Tony Shalhoub, Bruce Willis, Sami Bouajila, David Proval, Helmi Kassim.
1998 112 minutes
Rated: (for violence, profanity, brief nudity, and sexual situations).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 7, 1998.
In 1989, director Edward Zwick began his career with the powerful Civil War drama, "Glory," but since then, he has made continuous disappointments, to me at least, with 1994's "Legends of the Fall," and 1996's "Courage Under Fire." Those two films weren't bad, just not very good, but with Zwick's latest film, "The Siege," he has finally made one.
"The Siege," is a modern-day action-thriller that focuses on terrorism that is sweeping through New York City. Investigating the matter is FBI agents Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington) and Frank Haddad (Tony Shalhoub), who are first hit by the ordeal when a city bus explodes with several innocent people on it. Later, a bomb goes off in a Broadway theater, killing even more. They soon meet CIA operative Elise Kraft (Annette Bening), who may very well hold the key to the identity of the Arab terrorist.
There are some movies that simply don't need to be made, and, "The Siege" may very well be one of them. Oh, sure, Zwick thinks he is making a "meaningful" action film, since he has added lots of exposition scenes in which the audience is basically lectured on the horrors of terrorism, but what he really has made is actually no more substantial than, say, "Die Hard," which also starred Bruce Willis. This time, Willis is horribly wasted as a General of the U.S. Army, who puts a state of martial law over NYC during the climax. Whatever points, "The Siege," earnestly tried to make, were obviously lost in the translation from page to screen, or maybe, Zwick never really had anything serious to say in the first place. The role of the Arab community is offensively stereotypical, just as women were in the recent, "John Caprenter's Vampires," by placing them all in the category of "bad guys."
"The Siege," contains three fine actors---Washington, Bening, and Shalhoub---but Washington is stuck with a character that contains not an ounce of even remote development. Bening has slightly more to do, and has an intriguing character to work with, while Shalhoub pretty much steals the show, even though, again, he has no real character.
By the climax of, "The Siege," with Washington giving a sermon to Willis on the so-called "message" of the story, I felt like I had wandered into a sequel to, "On Deadly Ground," in which Steven Seagal gave a 10-minute speech at the end about preserving the environment. "The Siege" is constantly heavy-handed, not entertaining or insightful, and just goes to prove that not even the best actors can save a film that lacks a satisfactory screenplay.
©1998 by Dustin Putman