Denzel Washington, who has worked with Zwick before on Glory and
Courage Under Fire, slips back comfortably into his oft repeated
role as the good-guy straight-arrow, Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard, an FBI agent
assigned to investigate a terrorist bombing on a crowded New York City bus.
His partner is Frank Haddad (Wings's Tony Shalhoub), who is a Palestinian-American.
Frank serves as interpreter in Hub's negotiations with the terrorists. And
as if Hub doesn't have enough stress, a CIA agent who calls herself Elise
(Annette Bening) shows up and starts accurately predicting what's going
to happen next. She won't reveal why she knows so much, so Hub refuses to
let her help with the case, saying that the FBI has the situation in hand.
But her information proves too valuable for him to resist. When Hub presses
her, he finds that her real name is Sharon Bridger, and she is closely associated
with some of the terrorists, having helped them get into the country for
what she thought were legitimate purposes. So she begins to act as a go-between
for Hub and her Moslem friend Samir Nazhde (Sami Bouajila). We find that
the terrorism springs from the imprisonment of Sheik Ahmed Bin Talal, a
terrorist leader in the Mideast, by the US Army under the command of General
William Devereaux (Bruce Willis). The New York terrorists want him released
and will not stop the bombings until he is.
After the situation continues to escalate, the military is called in
to enact martial law, with Devereaux in charge. He adopts a warlike stance
in dealing with the situation, sealing off the city and detaining all young
adult male Palestinians in a football stadium fitted out with high fences
and barbed wire. The trouble is, one of the detainees is Frank's son. So
now, Hub must deal with 1) his partner quitting the bureau in a rage, 2)
a CIA agent who may or may not be friendly with the criminals, and 3) an
Army general bent on finding the terrorists through merciless persecution
of innocent people.
Zwick, whose resumé contains an eclectic collection of film genres, has done an adequate job of keeping the tension high and at the same time maintaining a tight, intelligent story we can all follow. The "FBI versus CIA versus Army" scheme is one we've seen before, but it is handled more intelligently here than in last year's The Peacemaker, for instance. Some of the acting is a bit over the top especially Willis's and the relationship between Hub and Sharon could use some work. But all in all, The Siege is a high-intensity thriller that keeps us interested and doesn't rely solely on explosions and gunfire to spark our interest. ****
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