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Enemy of the State (1998)
Rated R

Starring: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, and Jon Voight

Rating:
****
out of
*****

As I mentioned in my review of eXistenZ, any movie regarding technology or computers usually shows that technology doing things that it simply cannot do. In the case of Enemy of the State, I'm not sure if the computers can do those things they're shown doing or not. If they can, we're all in big trouble.

When New York Congressman Phillip Hammersley (Jason Robards) turns up dead, everyone assumes its because of his heart condition. Everyone except animal migration expert Daniel Zavitz (Jason Lee). By chance, the camera he used to monitor the Canadian geese in a park outside of Washington, D.C. captured the murder of Congressman Hammersley at the hands of NSA director Reynolds (Jon Voight). One of Reynolds' cronies spots Zavitz removing the videotape from the camera and alerts those who may be endangered by its contents. Reynolds moves to have Zavitz eliminated.

Robert Dean (Will Smith) is a successful labor lawyer. He's working on a case involving mafia influence on a union contract dispute when his life is suddenly turned upside down by a chance encounter with Daniel Zavitz in a store. Zavitz, who is being chased by the renegade feds, slips Dean a copy of the tape with the incriminating video. Dean is unaware of this transaction. The NSA goons, however, tap in to the store's security cameras and see the tape slipped into Dean's bags. The feds attempt to retrieve the tape from Dean by visiting his home and asking for it. Dean, attempting to defend himself against illegal search and seizure, declines to let them have the tape. In doing so, he sets the wheels in motion for one of the most interesting techno movies in recent memory.

Enemy of the State shows the government doing a lot of things it may or may not be able to do. Things like listening into phone calls instantly, tracking individual people from satellites, monitoring someone's every movement via tracking devices, and so forth. As I said, I don't know if the government really can do everything that is shown in this film and, if they can, we're all in trouble. However, my job is to review the movie and that I shall do.

Will Smith is excellent in this semi-serious role. He is allowed to display his highly charismatic personality as well as do some real acting. I'd like to see him in this type of role more often. Gene Hackman, as a man who eventually comes to help Will Smith's character, is also quite good as an abrasive former NSA agent. Jon Voight is particularly slimy as Reynolds, the loose cannon in the NSA.

The movie provides a great setup for the action that follows and never becomes overly confusing or technical. Movies with a lot of high-tech gadgetry and techno-speak can easily alienate an audience who have to decipher a glossary of terms before chewing on the plot. Here that's not a problem due to an intelligent script by David Marconi and brisk direction by Tony Scott. The climax is a bit disappointing in its convenience but, overall, the movie comes to a satisfying conclusion.

If you're looking for a good action/suspense film with a good cast and plenty of surprises, rent Enemy of the State. It may open your eyes to several issues regarding privacy and personal security.

Trivia: The satellites repeatedly send "CQ" in Morse code every time they're seen. "CQ" is ham radio shorthand for "Anybody out there want to chat?" ("Seek you.") (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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