Review: “The Siege”

One of the more surprising and intelligent films of the season is Edward Zwick’s “The Siege”. This film is a taught political thriller which relies more on plot and double-crosses than explosions, which for the most part is a good idea. Action fans may be disappointed by the somewhat slow pacing and lack of big booms!!, but I consider myself an action fan and was gripped from the beginning.

Annette Benning is the standout member of the cast thanks to both her acting and her character which is one of the best female roles I’ve seen in months. She is neither a screaming weakling who gets constantly stepped on, nor is she some superwoman who can take down agents with a glance. She’s a three dimensional character with intelligence, skills, vulnerabilities and to top it off a sense of mystery about her which is used very effectively. Denzel Washington is always good, though the role isn’t anything outstanding – just the usual sort of hero role we come to expect for these kind of flicks. The long speeches about “freedom” and “injustice” being the only weak points.

Tony Shaloub plays a great ‘sidekick’ kind of role, slipping in the jokes which are thankfully well-timed. The disappointing character though is Bruce Willis. Not the actor mind you who does well with what material he has, but rather his character which only has about 10-15 minutes of onscreen time and whose only real purpose of being there seems to be as part of a small sub-plot mostly concentrating near the film’s end. Still, they give his character a little depth – even though he’s leading the army takeover of NY, he is the one standing the strongest against the idea before the decision is made.

Not many films have concentrated on the Middle Eastern situation much even though its very interesting and more contemporary than the rogue elements of the Russian Federation which most recent political thrillers seem to revolve around. Because of that, its given the film a little more of an edge to it – and it tries (and sometimes fails) to break the stereotype that all Arabs are terrorists.

If you’ve seen the ads then you’d probably think this is a film about how quickly democracy crumbles in a martial law situation, when in fact the real key theme of the film seems to be how frighteningly quickly a city can be brought to knees by only a few small acts of terrorism – its quite chillingly done here. This ain’t no Tom Clancy-calibre thriller, but that’s not a bad thing and “The Siege” is one of the better thrillers of the year.