The Siege (1998)

(In theaters, November 1998) With only one more rewrite, this could have been one of the best political thrillers in recent memory. Not many films try to deal with the underlying issues surrounding terrorism (What if it’s our fault? What if we admit we can’t solve it? What if we have to overstep our laws to fight it?) and The Siege at least deserve credits for trying to do so. Unfortunately, for every good scene in The Siege, you have to tolerate another painful moment. The first hour is pretty clever; the second one is increasingly silly. The acting is good; Bruce Willis’ character is incoherently written. The bus explosion sequence is good; other explosions aren’t shown. The sidekick Arab character is great; everyone else is either saint or terrorist. Denzel Washington’s character is competent; he’s also everywhere regardless of whether he belongs or not. General Deveraux seems to be pretty responsible in the first hour; he turns in a raving maniac for the last 40 minutes. Annette Benning’s character is suitably complex; her motivations keep changing on us. The asian FBI agent is lovely; Annette Benning doesn’t look a tenth as cute as in Mars Attacks! The result is a muddled movie that tries but fails.

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