New York City, the setting for “Three Days of the Condor,” reviewed yesterday, has had its share of authentic terrorist activity as well as being the backdrop for fictional renderings as well. While some of these films have been produced since 9/11/01, it is particularly interesting to screen films from prior to that era. “The Siege” released in 1998, is an interesting harbinger for several aspects of the 9/11 attacks.
“The Siege” acknowledges the tensions, jealousies, territoriality and conflicting missions that can undermine the ability of agencies who are supposed to be on the same side to work together. FBI agent Anthony ‘Hub’ Hubbard (played by Denzel Washington) and his partner, Frank Haddad (played by Tony Shalhoub), are investigating an incident involving a bus where a paint bomb exploded. The evidence points to an Arab extremist group. Shortly after this, they meet the mysterious Elise Kraft (played by Annette Bening). A CIA operative, she is approaching the problem in a different perspective, but ends up working with them as she has knowledge of relations between Americans and Arabs. The FBI soon learns the original bus incident was a warning. After this, another bus explodes, killing many people. Soon, there are other terrorist attacks throughout the city. To deal with this, martial law is declared and the army gets into the act, and again, their sense of the problem and solution is very different from the others. General William Devereaux (played by Bruce Willis) sends his troops into the city.
“The Siege” is well directed by Edward Zwick. As he has done with his other films, he shows he is skilled at creating suspense and filming action sequences. The bus explosion is quite intense. Also, Zwick does a good job showing that not all of the Muslims are bad guys and not all of the whites are good guys.
Denzel Washington is great in the lead role. He gives us a smart and capable agent. Annette Bening is equally good as Elise.
“The Siege” is a good choice for fans of suspense films and those interested in seeing how conflicting priorities can undermine safety and security. It is interesting to watch since it was made before September 11th.