The Siege (1998)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Political Thriller  |   Release Date - Nov 6, 1998 (USA)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - Belgium, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Karl Williams

This terrorist thriller from director Ed Zwick was underrated upon its initial release, but only a few years later, the film seemed simultaneously prescient and quaint given subsequent real-life events. The idea of a story about Islamic fundamentalists viciously attacking the citizens of New York City certainly wasn't a wild and crazy concept before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. However, the film's depiction of several smaller-scale bombings pales in comparison to the real and horrific genuine article. That doesn't make Zwick's a bad film, and indeed, there are some fascinating tidbits of information about the attitudes, backgrounds, and history of Islamic extremists to be gleaned here. Not only that, but Zwick proves an able hand at keeping a brisk pace and screenwriter Lawrence Wright crafts some gripping, suspenseful scenes. Denzel Washington delivers a typically adroit performance as a conflicted but tough and smart FBI agent, while Bruce Willis is at his coolly pained best in the role of an ambitious general who's mastered the art of political manipulation. Annette Bening is the spot-on choice for the role of an intelligent, competent woman who's somehow duped by her own errant gut instincts, while reliable character actor Tony Shalhoub proves again that he can do nearly anything. The Siege (1998) is probably going to be a difficult, painful film for a post-2001 audience to view, but it will stand for years to come as both a sturdy, effective action-drama and a poignant example of what Hollywood saw as a "worst case scenario" before history proved the film's creators naïvely incorrect.