Principal Cast : Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Regina King, Loren Dean, Jake Busey, Barry Pepper, Jason Lee, Gabriel Byrne, Lisa Bonet, Jack Black, Jamie Kennedy, Scott Caan, James LeGros, Stuart Wilson, Ian Hart, Bodhi Elfman, Jason Robards, Seth Green, Tom Sizemore, Grant Heslov, Philip Baker Hall.
Synopsis: A lawyer becomes targeted by a corrupt politician and his N.S.A. goons when he accidentally receives key evidence to a politically motivated crime.
Will Smith leads an absolutely stacked cast in Tony Scott’s tech-thriller that has dated – badly – in the years since. Although boasting then state-of-the-art surveillance technology and the inappropriate use of it back in the day, Enemy of The State’s use of such tech to assist its narrative thrust feels outmoded by today’s standards, a standard it cannot help but be compared to given the focus of it as a central conceit of the plot. Will Smith’s slick, unassuming lawyer character runs afoul of Big Brother and Gene Hackman’s tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist in this potboiler pseudo-political thriller, a typical wrong-place wrong-time archetype slicked up by Tony Scott’s skitterish direction and a smorgasbord of character actors all filling in even the most minor roles with a lip-smacking sense of style.
Smith plays attorney Robert Dean, who is accidentally given a CD with footage of a political assassination, and is forced to go on the run from the powerful (and corrupt) NSA, run by department head Brian Reynolds (Jon Voight). As the NSA tracks his every move, Dean makes contact with conspiracy nut and former NSA communications operative, Brill (Gene Hackman), who helps him avoid capture. As his friends and allies are slowly removed from the picture, Dean and Brill concoct a daring plan to expose the NSA and stop a powerful new Security Bill from passing through the US Congress.
Satellite tracking, bugs, powerful cameras and a complex web of technology infiltrated into just about every facet of human life; what passes for everyday occurrence and knowledge today seemed exceptionally far-fetched in this overreaching tech-thriller from writer David Marconi. The ubiquity of the US Government’s ability to track its citizens was the basis for this intriguing premise, a mix of shock-jock filmmaking and cautionary tale writ large, although by and large this technology is now largely in the hands of tech giants like Facebook and Apple than it is in any one government. Tony Scott helms the film with ferocious intent, capitalising on his cast of venerable and youthful character players, as Will Smith struggles to stay one step ahead of the best surveillance teams in the country. While the pure technological efficiency on display here has aged out of popular vernacular (do kids today even know what a CD ROM is?) the sheer energy and plot mechanics here will keep anyone guessing.
Despite an of-the-period approach to some of the technology on display, there’s an enigmatic earnestness to Enemy of The State that cannot be overstated. The film is a ball of fun, a loudly over-the-top man on the run thriller that excites, confuses, surprises and shocks in equal measure, and just when you think you have a handle on what’s going on – or how it’ll all turn out – things take a sharp left turn. Yes, the villains are all one-dimensional clichés, with Voight in particular having a grand time as the arch-nemesis of all that is good, and the good guys always seemingly several shades of grey, but the film’s engaging plot, sense of occasion characters and Tony Scott’s highly strung but never obnoxious directorial style all make for grand popcorn action. I doubt kids of a certain age will appreciate all of this film’s delicacies, but those over the age of about thirty might find some of it laughably enjoyable. Enemy of The State, while dated, is a heck of a great time.