Retro Film Review | Enemy of the State

Enemy of the State (1998)

Plot: A lawyer becomes targeted by a corrupt politician and his N.S.A. goons when he accidentally receives key evidence to a politically motivated crime.

Director: Tony Scott

Starring: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight

Genre: Action/Thriller

Released: December 1998

The first thing to say is that this film came out in December and buying Christmas presents is one of the catalysts that lead to Will Smith’s character being caught up in the plot, so by that logic, I may just class this as a Christmas film.

Will Smith and Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State (1998)

Now onto the movie. in my opinion Enemy of the State is one of the best action thrillers of the late ’90s, ranking up there with Patriot Games and Crimson Tide, but also a film that is just as relevant today as it was 20 years ago as technology becomes more and more entwined with everyday life and people become more worries about who is using tech to monitor us.

This film is 90 minutes of nonstop action, twists and political intrigue, while there are some holes in the plot, it movies along so quickly and vibrantly that you don’t mind and get swept up in the story of Robert Clayton Dean (Smith) a wronged man who gets mixed up in a deep-state plot after a chance encounter with a former classmate, taking him on a rollercoaster ride around Washington D.C as he first tries to figure out what is happening to his life and eventually how he can get out of this situation alive.

Will Smith in Enemy of the State (1998)

The film has a stellar cast. with cameos from unknown-at-the-time Jack Black and even Gabrielle Byrne makes an appearance in a memorable limited role, as does Tom Sizemore, but it’s Will Smith and Gene Hackman that teal the show along with Jon Voight, all three of which are impressive in their brilliantly written roles, performing so convincingly that they make you root for them or despise them.

Being mostly a chase story in which the characters are mostly on the run, we are treated to lots of wonderfully crafted chase sequences spread throughout the duration of the film. Leading me to praise the technical aspects of the movie, which really deliverers on the visual front.

One of the only annoying things about Enemy of the State is that sometimes technology doesn’t seem believable for the time and even 20 years later would be a stretch, for example, is there really likely to be a surveillance camera in a lingerie shop that would be good enough for someone to almost get a full 360-degree view of the shop? probably not.

Enemy of the state is a movie that is clearly ahead of its time and would possibly have been treated more favourably by critics if it had come out today when the fear of Government surveillance is greater, this, however, doesn’t mean that it isn’t an excellent action thriller filled with clever twists, interesting characters and Will Smith’s charisma.

If you liked: Nick of Time, The Fugitive, In The Line of Duty

 

4 comments

  1. One of the best political/action thrillers I’ve ever seen! I watched The Translator (Kidman, Penn) thinking it would be similar but the only interesting thing was the ever increasing height of Penns hair.

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