mosquitodragon’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is clearly one of those big-budget, Bruckheimer action-thrillers that are way dumber than they pretend to be. But, hey, one thing Bruckheimer got right in his career was getting Tony Scott to direct a heap of his movies, and Scott is one of those guys whose filmography I would like to complete because I’m not sure he’s ever turned in a true dud, no matter how hard the studio tried to make him. The guy was taken from us way too young.
It’s noisy and brash and there’s a lot of obnoxiously quick cutting – it’s every inch the 90’s big studio thriller. Nevertheless, I found this to be a perfectly entertaining bit of popcorn mindlessness. In fact, the whole theme of governments surveilling their own people feels strangely prescient, although the capabilities displayed by the NSA in this movie have been shown to be wildly overestimated, if the events of the last 20 years are anything to go by.
I’m not the biggest Will Smith fan but I have to say, I kind of liked him in this. Apparently it was his first role of this type – prior to this he’d only done comedy and then Six Degrees of Separation which got producers thinking about his dramatic chops. Not sure he’s ever really excelled in the dramatic stakes since, mind you, but he does a good job here of being charming and angry and terrified wherever the script demands it of him (sometimes all three at the same time).
Hackman is obviously an asset to any film, especially one like this which isn’t really quite worthy of licking his boots. He is strangely underused, appearing on screen for probably something less than half the run time all up. He handles his role with aplomb, of course, and I like the scenes he shares with Smith mainly because he seems so contemptuous of him – that’s the character, I’m sure he was very nice to him on set.
The most remarkable thing here is the supporting cast. It feels like every single bit player went on to become famous – or at least passably well known. So, besides Jon Voight (who did these movies incessantly in the 90’s but is still pretty fun to watch), Tom Sizemore (in his natural 90’s habitat) and Lisa Bonet (whose star was probably on the wane – but God is she gorgeous), you get Jason Lee, Ian Hart, Jake Busey, Scott Caan, Jack Black, Jamie Kennedy, Gabriel Byrne, Seth Green… there may be more I am forgetting. It would be a fun drinking game to take a swig every time a new recognizable face shows up – having already downed half a bottle of scotch before starting the movie, I figured it wasn’t necessary, but make a note for your own drinking enjoyment.
Despite the dated action techniques, Scott still manages to make this movie fly when he has to. It’s a little bloated and completely ridiculous – in fact, it’s exactly the kind of movie you think it is. But it’s one of the better examples of these kinds of movie, so I fully enjoyed it on its own terms.