The Siege (1998)

Action, Crime, Drama
Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis, Tony Shalhoub
The secret US abduction of a suspected terrorist leads to a wave of terrorist attacks in New York that lead to the declaration of martial law.
An exciting, well-paced action film.
  • 20th Century Fox Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 06 Nov 1998 Released:
  • 20 Apr 1999 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Lawrence Wright (story), Lawrence Wright (screenpl Writer:
  • Edward Zwick Director:
  • N/A Website:

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Trailer:

A solid film about paranoia and extremism7/10

I still can't see why this film was looked down upon objectively by the Arab-Americans living in the USA. Granted, this was before all of the Sept. 11 bombings, but the way the people were depicted in the film was objective. You had the extremists, capable of destroying building with no remorse from life, and you then had the other side. The innocents, the legal Arabs who love this country as much as the next person, blindly being lumped into one group without any provocation. This film isn't about anti-Arab sentiment, its more about paranoia and hasty decision making brought about by reactionary leadership. Interesting and enthralling, this film is better than what most people give it credit for.
What if....9/10
At first glance, The Siege looks to be a jingoistic, typically heroic American patriot film. But upon further review, and if you honestly give this movie a chance and listen to what it has to say, you'll see that it wants us to listen, it wants us to learn and it wants us to just look at the possibilities of " what if? ".

This is one of the best movies that I have seen in recent years and what kind of stumps me is the negative criticism surrounding the film, not just the complaint of racism ( I'll get into that later ) but about the film in general. And I have come to a conclusion that not everybody will agree with and certainly many will dislike.

The positive reviews that have been in the IMDb have been, at least a great many of them, from people that are nationalities other than American. And perhaps the reason for that is that we can sit back and look at the U.S. from afar and it may be easier for us ( as non Americans ) to understand more clearly what this movie is trying to say. And it may be easier for us ( whatever nationality we happen to be ) to understand what is wrong with America and why a film like this is just trying to give one possible reason for the decay of American society. That is not to say that our own countries don't have problems, because they do, but we can just see what is wrong with America a little easier, we are not blinded by our own patriotism. It may be easier still for perhaps Europeans to appreciate the movie even more than others because maybe their own countries have been under siege at one point or another. And maybe the relevance is that much more prevalent when you have been that close to something.

And what this movie has to say perhaps should not be taken lightly.

Steve Martin's character in " The Grand Canyon " uttered the line " watch the movies, they have all of life's answers. " Perhaps that has never been more true than what this film's message is. And I believe that message is that sooner or later if there is always going to be that one watch dog, that one Big Brother that is known as the United States, then something like this may happen. What if....

I truly believe this movie has been unfairly criticized about it's apparent racist tones. Every time there is a bombing by terrorists that are Arab in heritage, there is always a scene that follows where the Arab leagues lend their support and let the FBI know that they want these criminals brought to justice just as much as anyone does. " They love this country just as much as we do. " Denzel says in one of his speeches to the people in charge. Is it really racism when a movie tries to explore what could happen when one body of government takes matters in their own hands and breaks international law? To me every effort was made to show Arabs as normal, family loving, law abiding, peaceful citizens that they are. A bunch of Arab terrorists does not mean that all Arabs are fanatics that are bent on destroying America. That perception is like believing that all we as Canadians do is play hockey, drink beer and play in the snow.

The movie itself is so well acted and it is so well written that I really can't understand why Washington did not get a nod for best actor. He is mesmerizing. And I think his final confrontation with the general is tense, and brilliant.

Washington plays Hub, a very patriotic, by the book FBI agent that is personally affected by all the chaos that has ensued in his city, and he plays him brilliantly. Bening and Shaloub are also wonderful in their roles and the music in the film is haunting. Willis is a little weak in the film but that is minor in comparison to the rest of the movie.

If you haven't seen this film because of what you have heard, give it a chance, it is well worth it. And try to watch it and listen to what it has to say. You may be surprised. I'm not sure if something like this could ever happen to the US, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.
Eerily prescient.5/10

This film, made in 1998, is so close to the reality of Sept. 11, 2001 that it sends chills down your spine. Although events played out differently, so many elements in the film are near-mirror reflections of the reality. The attacks are carried out by Islamic extremists, whose core network were trained by the CIA, their attacks were dramatic and centered on New York City, there was little cooperation between, the FBI, CIA and military, and Arabs and Arab-Americans were rounded up in large numbers, or were subjected to harassment and violence. The images of bodies and debris are no less shocking than the sight of people jumping to their death from the World Trade Center. Torture was employed by US soldiers, in pursuit of terrorists. With all of that said, even had the attacks of Sept. 11th not occurred, this would still be a tremendous film.

Director Ed Zwick and actor Denzell Washington team up once again for a great one-two punch. Denzell brings great humanity to his role as an FBI agent, charged with counter-terrorism operations and investigations. He is aided by Tony Shalhoub, who delivers another great performance and some of the best lines. Annette Benning displays her talent as a CIA operative at the heart of the whole crisis. Roger Deacons adds his wonderful cinematography, and Bruce Willis turns in a fine performance as an over-zealous army general.

The film delivers a cautionary tale about extreme reactions to terror and the loss of freedoms that can result from acting in anger, rather than with reason and law. The rounding up of citizens, as depicted in the film, and the declarations of martial law, are not that far away from the provisions of the Patriot Act, which violates First Amendment rights, the right to privacy, and the right to due process. The film suggests that by giving up these rights, or stripping them away, we become the very thing that our enemies claim we are. It suggests that that may be the terrorists true aim.

This is not a crystal ball prediction of 9/11; but it is a fine thriller. The filmmakers did their homework and got quite a bit right. They also extrapolated things to an extreme, but not an implausible one. However, they delivered an excellent film, and one that should be seen and studied.
This fictional movie showed us what was coming. And they showed us what not to do!5/10
This was a very strange film. Strange, because it had so many of its facts right for 9/11. Right city, right jihadists, right plot.

And the military's answer to the terrorist threats? Go in, plunder, pillage, torture, abuse and kill the bad guys. Moral? If we stoop to their level, we are no better than the enemy. The real irony is, Denzel's character had the CHARACTER to do the right thing.

Oddly, and presciently, Bruce Willis' general was about to do all the wrong stuff, and with a little help from Denzel, decided not to resort to all the things we really have resorted to. This movie is notable for several reasons, but the uppermost is showing us the future we shouldn't take, but took anyway.

The irony is not lost. What is confounding here is how much of this originally semi-corny movie got right. Washington, Benning, Shaloub, and Willis, all deliver in a big fashion, with some pertinent warnings. The road not taken was the moral. How scary that in the long run, when presented by a much larger threat, we one-upped this movie's punch line in reality. How much stranger can you get than that?

This was a fairly realistic portrait of the underworld, the intrigue, the terrorism, and gave us a scary view of our future. Hopefully, next time a movie like this one comes along, we might be better served by taking it more seriously.
Still stands up7/10

I remember hearing about this film before its release. It had caught a great deal of flack for its use of Arabs and Muslims in particular as violent extremists. Even at that time I knew that the protests against this film were nothing more than politically correct nonsense, as even then the only trans-oceanic terrorists that existed were of the fake-Muslim variety that today we hear about every hour.

When I saw the film, I was impressed by the fair nature of the film, in that it portrayed the truth: these extremists exist in the overwhelming minority of Muslims, and that it is unwise and unfair to paint them all with the same brush. With a very good script, excellent performances and exciting action pieces, I was impressed.

Jump ahead a few years, and we see what we have learned. This film was not just an intelligent story. It was a warning sign. It examined things that people did not want to talk about. It examined things that people thought it more politically correct to ignore. It portrayed events realistically and in fact far less devastating than what was possible. If there is one thing that can be learned by examining a film such as this in retrospective of recent events, it is that our species chooses to ignore that which it does not want to accept.

Those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps there are other subjects we should stop being so PC about and actually talk about instead of worrying about "how it will look."