Tag Archives: Denzel Washington

Throwback Review: The Siege

The Siege: More Important Now Than Ever Before

What I Remembered: When The Siege was first released in November of 1998, I’m shocked to say that i laughed it off. It’s hard to believe, but even though the United States had only recently survived two embassy bombings in Africa, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the idea of the United States being attacked by fanatic Middle Eastern terrorists and the government enacting severe measures to combat the terror felt far fetched. But, a year and a half later when I caught the film on HBO, I thought that it was a reasonably good thriller, but still something meant for the realm of fiction. However, after the horrific events of 9/11 it took on a new meaning. Suddenly, the New York City of the movie was not too distant from the one I was living in. As somewhat prescient as it felt in those days, seeing it again recently it took on a new significance. After the 2015 horrors of Paris and San Bernardino and the xenophobic reactions of some in the United States, I contend that it is a movie that everyone should see.

The Story: The Siege opens on then- President Bill Clinton holding a news conference about the bombing of a United States facility in the Middle East (It is very similar to the bombings of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1995.) then to the United States government capturing the terrorist leader responsible for the attack and holding him without trial. After that, it cuts to F.B.I. agent Anthony “Hub” Hubbard (Denzel Washington) and his partner a Lebanese born naturalized American citizen named Frank Haddad ( Tony Shaloub). They are both members of the joint FBI/NYPD Terrorism Task Force and they are called upon to negotiate at the scene of a bus that has been taken hostage by terrorists of Middle Eastern origin who claim to have a bomb on board. To Hub and Frank’s great relief when the bomb on the bus goes off, but it is a dud filled with blue paint. At the conclusion the incident, Hub and his fellow agents and officers at the Task Force receive a statement from those responsible for the incident to “Release Him” or the city of New York will face more terrorist attacks. At first having no information about the capture of the terrorist mastermind of the assault in the Middle East, Hub and Frank don’t know what to make of the communication, but go to visit the bus to see if it can yield any clues. At the site where the bus is being held in evidence, Hub meets Elise Kraft (Annette Benning) a C.I.A. agent who has a peculiar and suspicious interest in the bus and the group that Hub is investigating. Elise is not very forthcoming about why she is there. But, when a second bus is bombed she, Hub, Frank and all of their colleagues will become engaged in a struggle against an enemy they cannot identify and will have a very difficult time bringing to justice. The results of this battle will be the borough of Brooklyn being placed under martial law, Muslim and Arab Americans being put into detainment camps and the actions of a fanatical U.S. Army General (Bruce Willis) going to far to try to end the crisis.

bruce willis the siege

Technical Details: The Siege had a tremendous lot of technical merit. Edward Zwick (Glory, Love And Other Drugs) did a fine job directing as he was able to create the feel of a city and country under siege with incredible realism. (This was especially unsettling when seeing the terrorist attacks on Broadway and at an elementary school that the movie depicted.) At the time it may have felt out there, but now it feels eerily close. Furthermore, the script penned mostly by him and Lawrence Wright( The latter was a writer who would end up authoring an excellent book about 9/11 called The Looming Tower.) was very well- crafted and structured. Finally, the cinematography was top notch as was the overall mood of the picture.

For all of these attributes the acting in the film was the linchpin of it. Nearly all the actors in it delivered extraordinary performances. Denzel Washington, Annette Benning, and Tony Shaloub were at their incredible best and although Bruce Willis received a Razzie for his work in The Siege, I did not think he was THAT bad. Additionally, I was tremendously impressed with French actor Sami Bouajila who played the character of Samir a Palestinian who has a murky relationship with everyone involved, very convincingly.

Even with these admirable qualities though the movie did have some flaws. Namely, it lacked character development to some degree, did not clarify certain elements and plot points, and wrapped up a little too quickly. That being said, those deficiencies don’t taint it too much.

the siege

End Credits: The Siege is not a perfect film, but one that I strongly urge everyone to see right now. At a time when the world is faced with the scourge of ISIS, seeing how some of the characters are able to face a group similar to it with strength and stoicism and without fear id something that we should all do. At a time when certain presidential candidates are making incredibly dangerous, prejudiced statements against all Muslims and Arabs- not just those that follow the insane radical ideology of a few- and threatening to ban all Muslims, this film should be viewed to see how far such rhetoric can go when put in practice. Finally, when the question of how to balance security with individual rights once again one people are starting to ask, seeing how it is balanced in this film is worth taking a look at.

The Siege may have seemed improbable at the time it was released. It may have seemed frighteningly somewhat similar in the Fall of 2001. But, now in a country that has been at war with radical Islamist terrorism for fifteen years, and when those radicals have become more vicious than before, and their acts and perversion of their religion have led to xenophobia and prejudice in certain circles, it is painfully accurate. Therefore, regardless of your religion, heritage, or political persuasion, you should see this movie. Doing so, has never been more important.

Throwback Review: Out of Time

out of time

Out of Time was a thriller that was released in 2003 and it starred Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes and Dean Cain. It was directed by Carl Franklin and written by David Collard.
What I Remember: I was encouraged to rent this by a friend who had seen it in desperation and ended up liking it. Even though I’m a fan of Denzel Washington based on the previews and the fact that I was unaware of the director, I did not have high hopes for it. However, I came away from it pleasantly surprised. I found it to be an entertaining and engaging picture that was fun to watch. Since I had a good recollection of it, recently I decided to give it another look. Despite the fact that it had some flaws, my opinion did not change too much.

The Story: Out of Time centers around Mathias Lee Whitlock (Washington) who is the chief of police of the Florida keys town of Banyan Key. At the start of the movie he is presently about to be divorced from his detective wife, Alex(Mendes) and is in the midst of an affair with his former high school flame, Ann Mari Harrison (Sanna Lathan). Complicating matters further, Ann is married to a cocky former professional football player named Chris (Dean Cain). Mathias often sneaks away for trysts with Ann and although Chris never acknowledges this there is a tension bordering on violence between Matt and Chris whenever they interact.

Despite the problems in his personal life, Matt has just come off a professional triumph. This is the arrest of a high profile drug dealer named Scarcetti. Through the arrest Matt was able to obtain nearly half a million dollars cash in drug money that the criminal had stashed away. For his success, he has been receiving high praise among the local media in Banyan Key and among law enforcement throughout the state.

Matt and Ann’s affair becomes increasingly passionate and is fueled even more by the fact that Chris seems to be committing spousal abuse towards Ann. After having spent the night together while Chris is away on a weekend hunting trip, Matt accompanies Ann to an appointment with her oncologist who informs her that her cancer once thought to be in remission has returned with a vengeance. Because of her poor health, Ann is informed she only has six months to live. Matt is understandably upset at this news and tries to convince Ann to try some experimental medical procedures in Europe which are very costly. When Ann’s efforts to make this happen seem to fail, Matt removes the money obtained in the Scarcetti case from his evidence locker and intends to use to it to pay for Ann’s treatment and run away with her forever. Prior to this decision, Ann also makes Matt the sole beneficiary of her life insurance policy. But, when Ann and Chris supposedly die in a house fire caused by arson the night that Matt and Ann are meant to leave town for good, Matt finds himself in a terrible quandary. Matt is now in way over his head. Ann has been seemingly murdered. Matt is entitled to receive her death benefits and the drug money from his prized arrest has gone missing. Matt is now forced to get out of this jam, but how will he?

outoftime denzel

Technical Details: Out of Time is a well put together piece of work. Franklin’s direction is very good as he perfectly captures all of the tension involved in the story’s complex relationships, and the atmosphere of the apparently care free fishing town where this tale transpires. In addition, the script is well structured, the editing is very good and the pacing is excellent.

The acting is most certainly the best feature of the movie though. Mendes and Lathan give good performances and Dean Cain is great as the antagonist to Washington. But, without question Denzel is the most compelling aspect. He plays the character of Mathias with an admirable studied casualness and it is enjoyable watching him navigate with impressive intellect all of the crises that befall him at every passing turn. In short, he is the epitome of cool and intelligence.

There is not much in Out of Time that I can find wrong with it. I suppose the only issue that I had is that some aspects of Ann’s life insurance policy are not clearly explained, but that does not derail the picture’s good qualities.

End Credits: This is not the most extraordinarily conceived or executed work of cinema ever made, but it is a good one. If you’re looking for an exciting, entertaining and smart movie you should give it a shot. If you’re a fan of a good thriller you won’t be disappointed.