Classic Intel: Enemy Of The State - Online Review

'pair up a director who loves cutting for no reason and a movie which specialises in, and talks about, different methods of filming people and you've got a match made in heaven'

Enemy Of The State and Tony Scott were always going to be a match made in heaven. Pair up a director who loves cutting for no reason and a movie which specialises in, and talks about, different methods of filming people and you're going to get a film which jumps randomly between different viewpoints and sources; from cameras in suit buttonholes to satellite imagery. It's a match made in heaven and Scott's style (vomit-inducing in Domino, amongst others) fits the film's ethos of surveillance and voyeurism perfectly.

The script by David Marconi is smart and witty (unlike his recent Die Hard 4.0 effort) and he remembers to include the big payoff lines for heavy hitters Will Smith and Gene Hackman to shout at each other (best example: 'what happened?' / 'I blew up a building' / 'Why?' / 'Because you made a phone call'). That said, the development of Robert Dean (Smith) from heavy hitting lawyer to government target is muddied. The entire thing relies on a coincidental meeting with a pre-My Name Is Earl Jason Lee, and beyond that requires that Lee's character doesn't notice all the commotion across the lake from him when picking up his video tape that starts the whole thing in motion.

Hollywood conveniences aside, the rest of the film moves quickly between several set pieces, ending in a veritable bloodbath, which it doesn't earn but does - just - get away with. In between, Scott even finds the time to pause for a The Third Man-esque run through the sewers. It's a scene that's even shot and framed the same way as Carol Reed's classic and it shows what he can do when he stops cutting for a second and starts thinking about cinema properly.

Smith went on to do much worse than this (his next was Wild Wild West) and when you hold the film up to other nineties thrillers it both compares and ages remarkably well, hardly a given taking its proximity to technology into account. The only other failing is the use of Gabriel Byrne whose character is not explained and then promptly gets chopped out of the film quicker than Scott can say 'cut'. A remarkable miss-step in what is otherwise a very competent techno-drama.




Look further...

'It’s smart, but it’s not self-important. It’s political, but it doesn’t insist upon itself. It’s fun, but it’s not stupid.' - The M0vie Blog

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