The Siege
*** GM
Starring: Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis, Tony Shalhoub


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A lot has been made about what the effect of this film is going to be on the American populace - whether the easily excitable and misguided masses will decide that anyone who speaks Arabic should be harassed and killed without mercy. How sad is the state we live in that this is actually a legitimate concern?

Anyway, those who have jumped the gun and decried this film as a spark for anti-Muslim hate crimes before seeing it should really calm down for a moment. Is there any logic in prejudging a movie because it might cause prejudice? Something ain't right there.

"The Siege" is actually a pretty well put-together film that's not quite action, not quite thriller and not quite mystery that explores what happens when all the horrible riots, terrorism and protests that the nightly news shows America in thirty second blurbs - easily ignored since it's on the other side of the world - comes home to roost in the Big Apple. Denzel Washington is Anthony Hubbard, an FBI agent trying to root out terrorist cels in New York with the help of his Lebanese partner Frank (Tony Shalhoub), all the while trying to get a stubborn CIA operative (Annette Bening) to cooperate with them in time to keep General Devereaux (Bruce Willis) from sweeping into town and breaking a few treaties and stomping on human rights in order to snuff out the culprits behind some vicious bombings.

Some might debate whether or not the herding of Muslim Americans into pens in the Meadowlands would actually happen since all those treaties were passed after World War II, but it's worthwhile to show in this movie simply to illustrate WHY those treaties were passed more effectively than a historical drama might do. It also puts it in a contemporary context, so those who are easily bored by documentaries and who like explosion movies might even get the message. Hopefully, this will actually serve to help the melting pot in this country and counteract the fears some held about the film.

I'm also glad to see Bruce Willis picking more good roles like this and starting to veer away from stuff like "Striking Distance." Ever since "12 Monkeys," I've been rooting for Bruce to prove to everyone that he's a real actor again and not just John McClane. He does a decent job as the unflinching soldier trying to serve his country by being a unrepentant and merciless bloodhound, and Washington is great as always as the smooth-talking Hub. Shalhoub is also a standout and gets most of the good one-liners in the film. Bening is appropriately mysterious, evasive and almost frustrating in her refusal to fully explain her role in the scheme of things.

It's not your average film. That in itself is a plus, but The Siege has a lot more going for it, too.

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