My Favorite Movies #77 – Enemy of the State

Enemy of the State - PosterEnemy of the State

1998

Directed by Tony Scott

Netflix says… Hotshot lawyer Robert Dean becomes a victim of high-tech identity theft when a hacker slips an incriminating video into his pocket. Soon, a rogue National Security agent sets out to recover the tape and destroy Dean.

  • I remember seeing this movie back when it was first released and thinking just how scary it is.
  • Not because it’s a scary movie. Because the technology to do what these government agencies are doing actually exists.
  • And that’s just what Hollywood was aware of in 1998. Imagine the technology at the government’s disposal 20 years later?
  • A congressman is killed because he refuses to endorse a telecommunications security and privacy act… which is meant to actually allow the government to point a camera and microphone at whomever it wishes at any time.
  • It’s clear from the start that NSA official Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voight) is the villain of this particular story. Because it’s his henchman who injects some kind of deadly compound into the congressman’s neck.
  • Robert Dean (Will Smith) is a pretty slick labor attorney who is deeply involved in a labor dispute with a guy named Pintero, whom we can assume has mob ties.
  • Dean has a complicated past with a girl (Lisa Bonet) who is his contact with a guy called Brill, who is able to supply him with inside information about his cases.
  • The latest is a videotape implicating Pintero in some shady dealings. Pintero’s not happy. He wants to know who supplied the tape, or else he’ll kill Dean.
  • Great start to the story, right?
  • Meanwhile, Reynolds and his underlings can’t get away scot-free. Turns out there’s a guy studying the migratory patterns of geese that had a camera set up across the lake from where the murder took place.
  • That camera caught the whole thing…
  • So now the NSA’s after this guy. Who happens to run into Robert Dean while he’s on the run from the NSA.
  • Unbeknownst to Dean, Goose slips a disc containing the video into one of his shopping bags. And then Goose continues to run… before getting hit by a truck.
  • I said this movie was scary. The scary part is everything the NSA uses to track Goose, and later Dean, while trying to get their hands on the video evidence of the congressman’s murder.
  • In order to plant bugs and trackers, they make it look like Dean’s family are the victims of a random home invasion.
  • They’re able to track movement via satellite and surveillance cameras placed around the city.
  • It’s a trade off, I guess. It’s a little unnerving to know that there are even more surveillance cameras in the world today. But it’s also added security, right?
  • And we’ve got drones now, too. Not something they had in their surveillance arsenal in the late-90s.
  • Not to mention the ability to hack into people’s computers and phone cameras/microphones.
  • To get to the incriminating video, the NSA destroys Dean’s life. He loses his job, his family, his finances…
  • He connects with Brill (Gene Hackman) who very reluctantly helps him take down Reynolds.
  • The climax is pretty great, tying together the threads with Reynolds and Pintero in one tidy package.
  • If you haven’t seen this one, check it out. I consider it one of Will Smith’s underappreciated roles. Gene Hackman is great, too.

Come back next week for #76 on my list of 100 favorite movies. It’s a little musical called Grease.

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