Enemy of the State

Enemy of the State ★★★½

Revisiting some of Tony Scott's films after quite a few years has been a surprisingly fruitful venture. Crimson Tide was epic, made me miss both Hackman and Gandolfini, and reminded me that Viggo Mortensen doesn't need to be the King of Gondor to impress in a supporting role. Watching Scott's films make you appreciate not just the frenetic directing style of someone who knew what he was good at, but a guy who trusted his actors implicitly to deliver the goods. Some of the faces who've worked for Scott throughout his filmography reads like a list of class acts happily willing to sign up for an action flick or something that might not normally be their thing. He's also had the best around supplying scripts, from Tarantino to Shane Black, Helgeland to Richard Kelly, everything is in place for him to deliver something special.

Enemy of the State isn't one of my favourite Tony Scott films, but again, despite the presence of Will Smith I thoroughly enjoyed this rewatch. Although over twenty years old, this film saw the future in terms of where government surveillance was going. It should rightly have scared the shit out of everyone watching, and although I did enjoy seeing Will Smith's character's life torn apart by Jon Voight and his team of tech-savvy numpties, this didn't truly get exciting until Gene Hackman popped up as an extremely paranoid ex-NSA operative who values his privacy and anonymity. It's a clever film, the plot has DNA traces of several other films thrown into the mix, and this reminded me especially of Scott's own Deja Vu film and Hackman's own Harry Caul in The Conversation. Smith getting top billing alongside Hackman seemed generous, one's a legend, the other is a television star who could sing a bit. The fact this film was made before 9/11 manages to make the paranoia look somewhat excessive, but it didn't make it any less true, and within three years of this film The Patriot Act would give the U.S. Government the power to invade everybody's lives in the name of National Security, Tony Scott must have had a crystal ball to see that coming?

Will Smith isn't bad in this, there I said it. Hackman on the other hand, well he's just perfectly suited to play the smartest man in the room, and yet again delivers another of those nuanced performances he delivered throughout an epic career. Voight play the guy his daughter thought he was for all those years she never spoke to him, and again the supporting cast features a host of up and comers ready for stardom. We've got Barry Pepper, Jack Black, Jake Busey, Regina King, and small cameos for Jason Robards (again) and Tom Sizemore, but they all seem inconsequential in the presence of Hackman. Unfortunately we didn't get enough of either Lisa Bonet or Jason Lee, but this is a film that goes at a rapid pace and is full of action sequences and surveillance footage material that suits Scott's penchant for quick jump cuts. Better than I remembered it, this couldn't have been directed by anyone other than Tony Scott, possibly the quintessential Scott film.

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