Enemy Of The State

Ever feel like your being watched and you don't know by whom? There's lots of good reasons to feel that way nowadays and most of them are hi-tech. This movie takes that frightening aspect of our daily existence and turns it into a fast-paced, action- packed, thrill-a-minute situation that shows things could be worse, that is if you happened to find yourself in Robert Clayton Dean's shoes.

Dean (Will Smith) doesn't know it, but he has received information from a passing (and soon to be departed) friend concerning the death of a U.S. congressman. Wow, sometimes it's just not worth getting out of bed. All Dean wanted to do was buy a nice piece of lingerie in a chic boutique and, before you know it, he's a tape carrying member of the death list. The big, bad guy who winds up on Dean's tail is an administrator for the National Security Agency who goes by the name of Thomas Brian Reynolds (Jon Voight).
(c)copyright Buena Vista International (Netherlands) B.V. , Touchstone Pictures.
Yes, not only do the two main characters in this feature have triple names, but they're both playing mean games, and for real. Naturally, since Reynolds has resources and clout at his disposal, he decides the only way to solve the problem (i.e. Dean) is to erase it. Now, get this straight: he doesn't work for the FBI or CIA, but for the extremely low-profile NSA (so low-profile, in fact, that in real life it is jokingly referred, among those who know in the States, as No Such Agency). He figures it'll be easy enough to commit the perfect crime, because he's in the perfect position to wipe away all traces. He doesn't expect Dean's intelligence, cleverness, and ingenuity to lead him to a near perfect solution in the form of an ex- intelligence operative known as Brill (Gene Hackman).

Actor Will Smith has managed to carve his own niche on the silver screen in next to no time. Adding this gem to "Mars Attacks!" and "Men in Black" is no mean feat. It looks like everybody'll be after him now. (Weren't they already, Will?) Smith's fascination with technology and computers easily extended itself into the related elements of this story. As he says, "Once we say something, there can be a microphone, once we go out, there can be a camera, every aspect of your life can be monitored and that's what happens to Robert Clayton Dean. They destroy him. They ruin his credit, they create doubt in his wife using photographs, they give false information to his employer and they plant misinformation in the media."

Gene Hackman's role as an ex-intelligence operative (a hunted man fighting for years to retain control over his own life) who lives in a more-than-familiar warehouse building with a wire-fence-invasion- control-double-interior and safety gadgets attached throughout, might possibly remind the avid viewer of an earlier role (in Coppola's "The Conversation") where he gave an inspired performance of a man suffering from justified paranoia.

Director Tony Scott knows how to keep the tension flowing with the assistance of David Marconi`s cleverly constructed script so that the viewer stays on the edge of his seat throughout this captivating cat-and-mouse chase through a hi-tech paranoid circus of today's world. (He also let's you know it could possibly be you, if things should ever go wrong.) Of course, Scott is no stranger to thrills, having already marked up a track record on several other productions made in collaboration with Jerry Bruckheimer, including "Top Gun," "Crimson Tide," "Beverly Hills Cop II," and "Days of Thunder."

Producer Bruckheimer explains that "For many years the government denied the existence of the NSA." Seemingly at ease about the whole situation he further explains, "I think there's a new openness now and they feel it's better to work with Hollywood. Through a connection of David Marconi's, we were able to meet the number two guy there a week before he retired even though they weren't directly involved with the movie."

Visiting the CIA as part of his research for the role, Smith also comments that "What's really amazing is that you have to imagine that anything you see in a movie is probably already 10 to 15 years behind what they actually have. The things we saw in their archives -- computers that could tell what you are typing on a typewriter just from the sound, cameras in toothpicks, and all of this technology was old, things they don't use anymore!"

And to get down to the real nitty-gritty, in 1995 newspaper journalists Scott Shane and Tom Bowman reported in The Baltimore Sun that "The National Security Agency's job is to protect U.S. government communications from eavesdroppers and to eavesdrop on foreign countries. In spy jargon such eavesdropping is called signals intelligence, or SIGINT. It includes the interception of voice or text messages sent by phone, fax, computer or other means, as well as such nonverbal transmissions as radar and electronic signals from missiles." In short, watch out everybody.

"Three Days of the Condor" may have been the old way; this is the new. Some things never change.

The more security grows as an ideal form of control for certain politically orientated organizations and the safer their members feel with what they deem to be necessary, the more every citizen becomes cornered. Privacy laws are, more often than not, an easy way of installing a surveillance system on nations.

So pursed, so terrifying, so now. Don't look over your shoulder, you might see someone. On the other hand, you might not. Which one is worse?

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett