The Siege

USA 1998

Reviewed by Ken Hollings

Synopsis

Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

New York City, the present. 'Hub' Hubbard heads the joint FBI/NYPD anti-terrorism task force in the wake of the Oklahoma and World Trade Center bombings. After a fake bomb splatters a busload of passengers with paint, his team receives a demand for the release of Sheik Ahmed Ben Talal, kidnapped in the Middle East on the orders of US General Devereaux. The bombing of New York will begin in earnest unless Talal is freed.

Hubbard finds his investigations shadowed by CIA operative Elise Kraft. When a second busload of passengers are killed by a bomb, the search focuses on Brooklyn's Arab community. Through Kraft, Hubbard contacts Samir Nazhde, a Palestinian CIA informer. Hubbard discovers Kraft was in Gulf War intelligence with Samir and that they are lovers. The task force locates the terrorist cell and wipes it out. However, new bombs blow up a theatre and FBI headquarters. Martial law is declared and Devereaux takes command.

Devereaux's draconian measures result in a suspect being tortured to death and Hubbard strikes out on his own to find the terrorists. Kraft - real name Sharon Bridger - discloses that she helped train Talal's followers in terror tactics against Saddam Hussein until the CIA abandoned them. She helps Hubbard coerce Samir into arranging a meeting with the bombers during a massive civil-rights rally. Samir seems to comply, but reveals he is the last terrorist on a suicide mission to detonate a bomb in the middle of the protestors. Samir shoots Kraft, but is killed by Hubbard. With Devereaux arrested on a murder charge, martial law is suspended.

Review

The Siege attempts to update the bluffs and counterfeints of the Cold War spy thriller, not to advance any ideological point but to obscure the fact that it doesn't have one. Every major flashpoint in recent US foreign policy is mentioned, from Beirut to Haiti, as if citation alone can take the place of argument. "Ask a question, get an atlas," a Washington politician complains at one point, and it's hard not to sympathise.

Director Zwick tackled the meanings of race and conflict in Glory and his Gulf War drama Courage under Fire, both featuring Denzel Washington, but the issues here have left him giddy. Daring you not to take the whole thing seriously, The Siege opens with President Clinton on television in the wake of the Somalia bombing, warning that "America takes care of its own", intercut with video footage of the devastated Federal Building in Oklahoma. Scarred and grainy, the raw actuality of these images only undermines the portentous dialogue and glossy production values to come.

When Hubbard (Washington) and his team first swing into action, the crackle of their procedural repartee seems impressive, until you realise its sole purpose is to establish him as a team player. With his FBI coffee mug and his natty monogrammed shirts, Hub's an organisation man of heroic proportions: an ex-paratrooper who studied law, a Catholic liberal who believes in the system. Compared with Devereaux (Bruce Willis) and Bridger (Annette Bening), he's a total square. While the other characters tend to drift in and out from moral twilight zones as the plot requires, Hub remains front and centre.

Zwick maintains a smooth pace, as Middle-Eastern terrorists bomb the supine citizens of New York into a panicky State Of Emergency. However, unsettling racial divisions are quickly smoothed over once Martial Law is declared. Herded together into wire cages by heavily armed American soldiers, the Arab population of Brooklyn is allowed to demonstrate good citizenship through its capacity for patient suffering.

Willis and Bening, meanwhile, bring grim determination to their dispiriting roles. Unsure if Devereaux is a dangerous fanatic or an authoritarian berserker, Willis tries both, coming up with a weird mix of Ollie North and Colonel Kurtz - the sight of tanks on the streets and camps heaving with captive Arabs seems to turn him on, but we never find out why. Bening bears the heaviest burden as not only the movie's sole major female character but also the only one devious enough to operate under an alias. Even the bombers arriving from the Middle East conveniently use their real names.

As soon as Bening is shown smoking hashish with her Palestinian lover, we know she's doomed. Such behaviour would have been criticised during the Cold War as "going native". In this political melodrama which revels in its own sentimental extremism, it represents, in grossly literal terms, how the expediencies of foreign policy create strange bedfellows. No matter how intelligent, perceptive or experienced Kraft/Bridger may be, she still winds up paying for Hubbard's isolationist purity. With its curious blend of cynicism and naivety, The Siege tries to tackle serious issues without actually offending anybody. Unless you happen to be a woman, of course.

Credits

Producers
Lynda Obst
Edward Zwick
Screenplay
Lawrence Wright
Menno Meyjes
Edward Zwick
Story
Lawrence Wright
Director of Photography
Roger Deakins
Editor
Steven Rosenblum
Production Designer
Lilly Kilvert
Music
Graeme Revell
┬ęTwentieth Century Fox Corporation
Production Company
Twentieth Century Fox presents a Lynda Obst production
Executive Producer
Peter Schindler
Co-producer
Jonathan Filley
Associate Producer
Robin Budd
Production Supervisor
L.A.:
Carl S. Griffin
Production Co-ordinators
Ellen Gannon
L.A.:
Diane Ward
Unit Production Manager
Jonathan Filley
Location Managers
Dana Robin
L.A.:
Richard Davis Jr
2nd Unit:
Charlynne Hopson
2nd Unit Director
Peter Horton
Assistant Directors
Nilo Otero
Paul S. Bernard
Gregory G. Hale
Additional:
Michael Pitt
L.A.:
Stuart Hagen
2nd Unit:
John E. Gallagher
T. Sean Ferguson
Script Supervisors
James Ellis
2nd Unit:
Catherine Gore
Casting
Mary Goldberg
Mary Colquhoun
Voice:
Barbara Harris
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Craig Haagensen
Camera Operators
Michael Caracciolo
Abe Schrager
Wayne Paull
L.A.:
Clinton Dougherty
Scott Browner
Steadicam Operators
Kyle Rudolph
L.A.:
Mark O'Kane
Digital Visual Effects
Moving Target
Visual Effects Supervisors:
Alan Munro
Robert Stromberg
Visual Effects Producer:
Brian Jochum
Visual Effects:
Frederick Toye
3-D Model Design/Animation:
Joseph Conti
3-D Modelling:
Carlos Wambao
3-D Textering:
Jesse Daves
Digital Scanning/Composites
VCE Inc
Digital Scanning/Composites:
Peter Kuran
Administration:
Jacqueline Zietlow
Co-ordinator:
Marilyn Nave
Digital Recording Supervisor:
Brian Griffin
Digital Compositor:
Bryan Cooke
Editorial:
Jo Martin
Additional Digital Scanning
Digital FilmWorks
Special Effects
Co-ordinator:
Paul Lombardi
1st Unit Co-ordinator:
Chuck Stewart
2nd Unit Supervisor:
Kelly Kerby
Shop Supervisor:
David Peterson
Foremen:
Stanley Blackwell
Wilfred Caban
Robert Calvert
Thomas Craven
Steven Dearth
Terry Erickson
Guy Feldman
Steven Hintz
Steven Kirshoff
Randy Krohmer
Ron Mathews
Jeff Miller
Technicians:
Kurt Ottenheimer
Daniel Owen
George Paine
Rick Peterson
Scott Roark
Charles Schmitz
Steve Shines
Parry Willard
William H. Wolf
Richard S. Wood
Video Footage Editor
Terri Belis
Supervising Art Director
John O. Warnke
Art Director
Chris Shriver
L.A. Set Designer
Anthony D. Parrillo
Set Decorator
Gretchen Rau
Storyboard Artist
Carl Aldana
Costume Designer
Ann Roth
Wardrobe Supervisors
Donna Maloney
L.A.:
Cheryl Beasley Blackwell
Key Make-up Artists
Kathryn Bihr
L.A.:
Todd A. McIntosh
Prosthetic Make-up
Todd Kleitsch
Key Hair Stylists
William A. Farley
Scott W. Farley
L.A.:
Carl Bailey
Title Design
Moving Target
Frederick Toye
Titles/Opticals
Pacific/Mirage Titles and Opticals
Featured Duduk Performer
Djivan Gasparyan
Featured Vocalist
Nona Hendryx
Conductors
Tim Simonec
Larry Kenton
Orchestrations
Tim Simonec

Music Editor
Josh Winget
Score Recordist/Mixer
John Kurlander
Music Programmer
Paul Haslinger
Synth Pre-record Engineer
Mitch Zelezny
Soundtrack
"First You Cry" by Buddy Flett, David Egan, performed by Little Buster and The Soul Brothers; "Great Leap Forward" by James Kerr, Charles Burchill, performed by Simple Minds
Sound Design/Supervision
Lon E. Bender
Sound Mixers
Allan Byer
L.A.:
Jeff Wexler
Additional Audios
Mark Ormandy
David Young
Recordists
Matt Patterson
Dennis Johnson
Re-recording Mixers
Paul Massey
D.M. Hemphill
Sound Editors
Neal Anderson
Christopher Assells
Dino DiMuro
Hector C. Gika
Gregory J. Hainer
Danny Hegeman
Craig Jaeger
Patrick Sellers
Dialogue Supervisor
John A. Larsen
Dialogue Editors
Harry B. Miller III
Michael Haight
David Kulczycki
ADR
Supervisor:
R.J. Kizer
Recordists:
David Lucarelli
Bobby Johanson
Alex Raspa
Mixers:
Charlene Richards
David Boulton
Editor:
Donald Sylvester
Foley
Supervisor:
Kelly L. Oxford
Walkers:
Jim Moriana
Jeff Wilhoit
Recordist:
J.C. Lucas
Mixer:
David Alstadter
Special Operations/ Military Adviser
Jeff Beatty
FBI Consultant
Jaime Cedeno
Consultant
Tim Weiner
Aerial Co-ordinators
Dirk Vahle
Bruce Benson
Al Cerullo
Gary W. Farrell
Cliff Fleming
'Big Mike' Harrah
Craig Hosking
Stunt Co-ordinator
Joel J. Kramer
Dialect Consultants
Wanda Salloum
Abdul Zohbi
L.A.:
Sam Askari
Pilots
Tim Orr
Alan Purwin
Bill Richards
Rick Shuster
Laura Michelle Smith
Steve Stafford
Film Extract
Jesse James (1939)
Cast
Denzel Washington
Anthony Hubbard
Bruce Willis
General William Devereaux
Annette Bening
Elise Kraft/Sharon Bridger
Tony Shalhoub
Frank Haddad
Sami Bouajila
Samir Nazhde
David Proval
Danny Sussman
Lance Reddick
Floyd Rose
Mark Valley
Mike Johanssen
Liana Pai
Tina Osu
Jack Gwaltney
Fred Darius
Chip Zien
Chief of Staff
Victor Slezak
Colonel Hardwick
Will Lyman
FBI director
Dakin Matthews
Senator Wright
John Rothman
Congressman Marshall
E. Katherine Kerr
attorney general
Jimmie Ray Weeks
army general
Amro Salama
Tariq Husseini
Ahmed Ben Larby
Sheik Ahmed Ben Talal
Mosleh Mohamed
Muezzin
Jeremy Knaster
INS official
William Hill
INS uniform
Aasif Mandvi
Khalil Saleh
Frank Dielsi
Officer Williams
Wood Harris
Officer Henderson
Ellen Bethea
Anita
David Costabile
fingerprint expert
Glenn Kessler
fibre expert
Jeffrey Allan Waid
video agent
Tom Mcdermott
phone bank agent
Sherry Ham-Bernard
Hub's secretary
Joseph Hodge
landlord
Joey Naber
Rashad
Said Faraj
Yousef
Alex Dodd
Ali
Jacqueline Antaramian
Najiba Haddad
Helmi Kassim
Frank Haddad Jr
Ghoulam R. Rasoully
Frank Jr's teacher
Joseph Badalucco Jr
EMT
Diana Naftal
injured woman
Insben Shenkman
Kaplan
A.A. Barton Tinapp
Mayoral
Neal Jones
NYPD representative
Donna Hanover
district attorney
Peter Schindler
Johnson, FAA
Hany Kamal
Arab spokesman
John Henry Cox
Speaker of the House
Ray Godshall
CIA director
Chris Messina
corporal
Gilbert Rosales
mechanic
Jim Shankman
Tariq Husseini
Matt Servitto
Jourdan Fremin
journalists
Anjua Warfield
match organizer
Susie Essman
protest speaker
Rory J. Aylward
lieutenant
Jeff Beatty
FBI agent undercover
Graham J. Larson
FBI agent
Arianna Huffington
Robert Scheer
Matt Miller
Capitol Week pundits
John F. Beard
Stan Brooks
Alex Chadwick
Epi Colon
Judy De Angelis
Luis Jimenez
Sean Hannity
Ronald Kuby

Daniel Schorr
Curtis Sliwa
Susan Stamberg
Mary Alice Williams
newscasters
Certificate
15
Distributor
20th Century Fox (UK)
10,441 feet
116 minutes 1 second
Dolby
Colour/Prints by
DeLuxe
Super 35
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011