Friday 10 January 2014

Movie Review: Enemy of the State (1998)

It's a little odd or maybe a lot odd to be reviewing a movie from fifteen years ago, but happenstance sometimes brings together interesting things. At the bottom of this article, you will find a high definition version of the movie, on-line and totally free. For somebody who doesn't own a television, this was a pretty good find. But of more interest, is the connection to the NSA spy scandal brought about by the whistle blower Edward Snowden.

The plot in a nutshell.

As the U.S. Congress moves to pass new legislation that dramatically expands the surveillance powers of intelligence agencies, Congressman Phil Hammersley remains firmly opposed to its passage. To ensure the bill's passage, National Security Agency official Thomas Reynolds kills Hammersley, but he is unaware of a video camera set up by wildlife researcher Daniel Zavitz that has captured the entire incident. Zavitz discovers the murder, and alerts an underground journalist, at the same time transferring the video to an innocuous computer disc. Reynolds learns of Zavitz's footage, and sends a team to recover the video. While fleeing, Zavitz runs into an old college friend, labor lawyer Robert Clayton Dean. Zavitz secretly passes the computer disc into Dean's shopping bag without his knowledge. Zavitz flees and is killed when hit by a fire truck. Reynolds soon has the underground journalist killed. -Wikipedia

From there, Reynolds (Jon Voight) chases Dean (Will Smith) to recover the video in order to cover up the murder. I enjoyed it and would recommend the film as a spy thriller slash murder mystery.

However, the big part of the film is the depiction of the NSA and its ability to spy on all of us. Of course, this 1998 film took poetic licence with what then was supposedly possible to do with technology, but since then, the headlines seem to have proven that if the NSA in the film was fictionalised, the present day NSA has come a long way to turning fiction into fact.

The Guardian - June 16/2013
How Hollywood softened us up for NSA surveillance by John Patterson
Last week's NSA leaks scandal had a scary side-story: a poll found that many Americans were not that worried about the degree of access the agency apparently now has to their digital lives... Hollywood has been softening us up for this for years now, accustoming us to the notion that our spending habits, our location, our every movement and conversation, are visible to others whose motives we cannot know.

But, while we all seem to be holding the NSA itself as being big brother, the various films of this genre portray an individual as being at fault, not the agency.

In movies where the NSA appears as itself (or a production designer's imagining thereof), there is always one rogue NSA agent abusing the vast informational and surveillance capabilities available to him. In Enemy of the State, it is the dependably barmy Jon Voight who goes off the reservation, and in Echelon Conspiracy, it is Martin Sheen. But these lone villains are routinely depicted as abusing a magnificent and fundamentally benign spy apparatus. The thing itself is morally neutral, they seem to argue, it is bad humans who make it behave badly. - John Patterson, The Guardian

It's not the government that is the enemy, this movie argues, so much as bureaucrats and demagogues who use the power of the government to gain their own ends and cover their own tracks. Voight's character is really acting on his own behalf: He wants a communications bill passed because it will make his job easier (and perhaps make him richer). He has the congressman (Jason Robards) killed because he's the key opponent of the bill. Everything else follows from the coverup of the murder. - Roger Ebert, review of this movie

The above two journalists bring up the same idea: it's not the NSA that is bad, it is the people who work for the agency. It was reported in September 2013 (Huffington) that an internal review of the agency uncovered abuses of surveillance programs by employees. They were spying on significant others.

I can resist everything except temptation.
-Oscar Wilde

Is the problem going into the future not the agency, not its spy programs, but the deliberate misuse of supposedly neutral government technology by individuals for their personal gain?

The NSA is not new. Its antecedents started in 1917 (Wikipedia) and the name itself came in being in 1951. From there, the agency has apparently been active in various spying operations. It is interesting trying to sort out fact from fiction since much of this work is hush hush. I am reminded of the hubbub surrounding Area 51 and how the government's policy of saying nothing was in the long run the best thing to do. Let people accuse you of everything under the sun, but if they have no proof and you say nothing, the story is going to go nowhere.

Even though Edward Snowden has spilled the beans, more than likely this is going to go nowhere too. This is going to happen whether we like it or not; there is no stopping it. Despite our collective protesting about the infringement of our right to privacy, companies have been collecting data about us and using it for their benefit for years. Picture all that targeted advertising in Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Geesh. In Twitter, out of curiosity, I clicked on one of their suggested links "Who To Follow" an escort agency; sometimes I'm a bad boy. For the next twenty-four hours, I got link after link after link of escort agencies. Thanks to Twitter, I am now a badder boy?

Final Word
I found this film quite entertaining. However, as I was watching it, I couldn't help thinking of the NSA in light of all the revelations of the past year or so after Snowden leaked to the world what was going on behind closed doors. Good? Bad? I think it's inevitable. If you have something, you're going to use it. If you can spy, you're going to spy. Now how do you regulate spying so it's used for good and not evil? We might think otherwise, but I can't help feeling there are things going on in government that even the president is unaware of. But even if he is aware of it, that doesn't necessarily mean he can change it or stop it. We can joke about somebody listening to our phone conversations or reading our email, however I like many people wouldn't be all that surprised if it is actually going on. Gee, I just looked at a dirty video. Did that guy sitting in the car out front of my place shake his head at me with an amused smile when I walked the dog or is that my guilty conscious? Boy, we're all going to be in trouble when we move to teledildonics.


Wikipedia: Teledildonics
Teledildonics (also known as "cyberdildonics") are electronic sex toys that can be controlled by a computer to enable the human user to reach orgasm... the "next big thing" in cybersex technology.

Rotten Tomatoes: Enemy of the State: 71%
An entertaining, topical thriller that finds director Tony Scott on solid form and Will Smith confirming his action headliner status.

Wikipedia: Enemy of the State
Enemy of the State is a 1998 American spy-thriller about a group of rogue NSA agents who kill a US Congressman and try to cover up the murder. It was written by David Marconi, directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. It stars Will Smith and Gene Hackman, with Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, and Regina King in supporting roles.

Roger Ebert: Enemy of the State (1998)
It's not the government that is the enemy, this movie argues, so much as bureaucrats and demagogues who use the power of the government to gain their own ends and cover their own tracks.

Note: Jan 10/2014, I posted the movie I watched. Jan 25/2014, I checked and that video had been taken down and I found this one. I'm guessing this will be eventually found and it will disappear. If so, you can always do the following search: Enemy Of The State 1998 (1080p) (Full movie)

Enemy Of The State 1998 (1080p) (Full movie)


Site Map - William Quincy BelleFollow me on Twitter

No comments: