The Siege (Zwick, 1998)

Art imitating a nightmare reality, unknowingly representing a true future. Set in a pre-9/11 NYC, The Siege follows F.B.I. agent Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington) and his counter-terrorism unit as they attempt to uncover a number of deadly sleeper cells in New York City. Zwick’s film also involves the C.I.A. (spook Annette Benning) and the military (General Bruce Willis), blatantly revealing how each arm of the government can unmask and undermine the other in this modern War on Terror. The Siege has a traditional and unrewarding screenplay but reveals moments of eerie transcendence, fluctuating between 9/11 style sequences of mass panic and quiet, reflective ones of government officials feeling impotent to the threat. Edward Zwick defines mainstream directing, letting his actors discover their unchanging character roles and live exactly as they should within this environment. However, The Siege dares (probably because no one could have imagined anything so bad in real life) to have epic terror sequences spelling out the gruesome human toll such attacks can have, and now have had on New York City. As Denzel approaches a bus with countless passengers taken hostage, we can see the determination and the confidence in his eyes, believing he can get those people to safety. When the bus disintegrates into a ball of fire, he knows and we know the real deal has hit the streets of America. It’s a haunting image of fiction which has become an all too familiar reality.

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