If you like political thrillers with lots of explosions, domestic terrorism, and vein-popping army Generals, this movie’s for you. If, however, you’re just tagging along and don’t know the difference between the FBI and CIA, remember to bring one of those breathe-right snore strips as to not disturb the others. The Siege, director Edward Zwick’s follow up to his compelling Courage Under Fire, is a sometimes gripping but mostly routine shoot-em-up about Muslim terrorism in American.
The plot is a typical political thriller with lots of explosions. After a Muslim terrorist is kidnapped on his own soil, Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington) head of the FBI/NYPD Terrorism Task Force, witnesses merciless acts of terrorism pop up all over New York City. When investigations lead him to a Muslim sympathizer/CIA operative Elise Kraft (Annette Bening), we are exposed to the secretive world of the Arab community living in New York City. Meanwhile, the government, fearful of more domestic bombings, sends in General Devereaux (Bruce Willis) to command an army and close off the entire Brooklyn borough to extract the Arab-American community in search of the rouge terrorists.
Declaring Marshall Law in New York City is a great idea for a film that falls short halfway, and it’s a shame because the set up is so strong. As the entire New York Arab-American community is rounded up, you can’t help but realize that this very real problem could happen to ANY ethnic group targeted by the government. It puts all American’s feelings of paranoia and powerlessness into the forefront. (In one scene a truck engine backfires and the entire New York city street hits the ground, assuming sniper gunfire.) Ultimately The Siege turns into an overly simplistic cat and mouse game between the army and the FBI, with stand-offs reminiscent of another Denzel Washington film, Crimson Tide. Now if only there was to get a submarine in New York…?