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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 17 September 2007
The Siege tells a hypothetical story about terrorist attacks on New York City by Islamic fundamentalists, and how an FBI department led by Special Agent Hubbard (Denzel Washington) tries to stop them. A CIA agent (Annette Bening) is also involved, and refuses to cooperate with the FBI, at least at first. When the attacks continue and the FBI and police are unable to stop them, President Bill Clinton imposes martial law and U.S. Army units under General Devereaux (Bruce Willis) occupy and isolate Brooklyn and round up all the young Arab men and place them in an internment camp. This leads to several consequences and to a final showdown that will not be revealed here.

The Siege was controversial already in 1998 when it was released: the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Council on American-Islamic Relations both protested strenuously and said the movie was offensive and discriminatory. After the 9/11-2001 terrorist attacks on the United States it can be seen that the movie was in some ways prescient: it practically predicted terrorist attacks on New York by Islamic fundamentalists, a fatal lack of cooperation between the FBI and the CIA, and the imposition of measures that reduced civil liberties for average Americans.

In fact, the key conflict in The Siege is not the conflict between the terrorists and the law enforcement agencies. The key conflict is an ideological one: On one hand there are those who believe that all possible means, including the use of torture and the detention and isolation of suspects with no access to legal process, can be necessary responses to a terrorist threat. On the other hand there are those who believe that use of torture and the reduction of civil liberties can never be justified, and that if one resorts to these measures then one has handed victory to the terrorists.

It is the emphasis of this ideological conflict that makes The Siege so thought provoking and leads me to award it five stars.

Others have panned The Siege as being too anti-military, claiming that the imposition of martial law is farfetched and the U.S. military depicted as too inhumane. Here it must be pointed out that in the hypothetical situation presented in The Siege there was an on-going series of terrorist attacks with no end in sight, a far different situation than that experienced on 9/11-2001.

It's interesting to note that the script for The Siege was written by Lawrence Wright, who later, in 2006, wrote a book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, and won the Pulitzer Prize for it. This book is also highly recommended.

A few words about DVD extra material. The first DVD release (2000) includes a 13-minute special feature "The Making of The Siege", which is fairly interesting but nothing very special. There is a newer DVD release (2007) subtitled "Martial Law Edition" which includes two additional special features, "The Siege: Taking New York" and "The Siege: Freedom is History". Unfortunately I haven't seen this edition yet.

Highly recommended, at least if you want more than just action and drama and enjoy thought-provoking stories.

Rennie Petersen
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on 6 August 2011
The Siege is a 'prophetic' movie in my opinion, because although it was released in 1998, before the 9/11 and the numerous bombings in London, Madrid, India and elsewhere, it kind of foresees these events.

US Army General William Devereaux (Bruce Willis) is involved in the abduction of a Sheikh, an Islamic religious leader. As a result, New York City becomes a terrorist target starting with the blowing up of a bus in busy Brooklyn. FBI Special Agent Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington) and his Arab fellow-agent Frank Haddad (Tony Shalhoub) try to locate and stop the terrorist cells while violence, bombings and mayhem are escalating. CIA agent Elise Kraft (Annette Bening) seems to have a lot of helpful information, but what is her agenda?

USA focused disaster movies are not usually my cup of tea and I watched this movie after my partner chose it. I must admit though that it is a fast paced adventure with an intriguing story line. The cinematography is fresh and remains up to it almost 12 years down the line, although the effects and action scenes are pretty typical US style, i.e. with lots of explosions, but in this particular film, bomb explosions are a main plot theme, so they don't seem out of place or too exaggerated.

While I was watching the movie I had to check what year it was made, because I couldn't believe the fact that it actually predicts the attack of Muslim extremists on US soil and New York in particular. In addition, the reaction of General Devereaux foretells the events at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. This played a significant role for me, because if the movie were made after 9/11 I would probably see it as an attempt to exploit the popular fear, but being made before those events make it worth watching and realising how many key aspects of the 'war on terror' the director and script writer have managed to capture in a true prophetic way, when most of the world did not see it coming.

The selection of the cast is excellent, with Washington, Willis and Shalhoub being very comfortable and believable in their roles. Annette Bening's presence is a bit odd, but so is her character in the movie, so it keeps the viewer guessing on who she really is and what she knows. This question keeps things much more interesting and adds a mystery layer - albeit thin - to the plot, with some twists and turns.

Something I really enjoyed in this film is that it does not have any predictable and unnecessary romance and sex scenes; it does contain some nudity, but it feels very natural for the role and the given scene.

The main disadvantage is that knowing how things have evolved in real life, I found that the movie sometimes gets a lecturing and melodramatic tone.
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on 6 April 2014
This film is so shockingly accurate on so many levels, that I hope you will forgive me when I say, the US officials, government, CIA, etc. and the Al-Qeda must have watched this film and then began their respective planning.
The fact that the Army did not go and round up all Arabs, etc. in a stadium in New York after 9/11 is possibly due to this film, as it shows the likely outcome, public outcry/ demonstrations and sympathies, if they had done so.
Instead they round many people up and shipped them to their own "camps" out of sight and out of mind. They are still detaining and torturing people just like the film shows and worse.
That the FBI is the honorable protector of freedom is of course completely fictional but they couldn't have made a sell-able film otherwise.

This film should be filed under non-fiction.

(I had seen this film before 9/11...)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 September 2013
Most of the reviews on this site are for The Siege,but my review(brief though it is)is for the box set that also includes Broken Arrow and Speed(the original).
All are excellent action/thrillers with top stars performing to their optimum.
Well worth the price for 3 thoughtful,big budget adventures extremely well directed and produced.
As an unexpected bonus all 3 films have English subtitles not advised on the packaging.
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on 26 November 2014
After the abduction by the US military of an Islamic religious leader, New York City becomes the target of escalating terrorist attacks.

Anthony Hubbard, the head of the FBI's Counter-Terrorism Task Force in New York, teams up with CIA operative Elise Kraft to hunt down the terrorist cells responsible for the attacks.

As the bombings continue, the US government responds by declaring martial law, sending US troops, led by Gen. Devereaux, into the streets of New York City.....

Its a topical film for sure, and it was made before the tragedy in New York, and for fans of the film, its a good job, because there is no way it would me made today, it's just too close to those events.

But regardless of its political message, and its patriotism, it's just too dull in some places, and even though Washington is as good as ever, and Willis plays a convincing hate filled General, it just doesn't deter you away from the blandness of the outcome.

Plus the fact that after the visually stunning scene with the bus, it's as if Fox has said to the producers 'look guys, you've had your big key scene, any other incidents with the film will be cutaways, or a noise in the background', and that is just what happens.

And Benning is totally miscast in this, whenever she utters anything specific to her job, or becomes authoritative, the film verges on parody.

But its worth watching for its message about xenophobia, the impressive set piece, and of course, Washington.

Good, but bland....
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on 24 August 2015
I came across this movie as a suggestion from Amazon and decided to buy it used. Excellent movie. I would highly recommend it. Because of the what is going on now it gives you lots to think about. Living in Europe you just accept that there are terrorist out there but the US unless something happens does not even think about it, at least in my opinion. I find this film interesting as something like this can really happen. I lived in Canada when the FLQ did some terror acts and the Wars Measure Act was brought in for a brief time. It can happen in the US and watching this film was an eye opener to say the least.
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on 5 July 2004
This film would probably do better in this day and age than prior to the invasion of Iraq as it is chillingly predictive in its portrayal of the American "War on Terror" and the subsequent civil liberties issues that have been caused a storm over the past year. It is a cut above the other terrorist threat movies because it is very well researched and does not pander to stereotyping.
The atrocities in Abu Ghraib prison, the arrests in Stuttgart, the laughable disparity and zonal tensions in the American intelligence system coupled with the erosion of civil liberties and human rights are all mirrored in this movie and makes for compelling, thought-provoking viewing. You cannot help but wonder that the film was made prior to 9/11.
The portrayal of good versus evil can be a little confusing at times as it can sometimes be unclear whether the movie is trying to polarise the matter of terrorists against American foreign policies or presenting them both as evil.
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on 6 June 2014
I bought this on a recomendation from a friend , glad I did. Firstly I think Denzil Washington is a really good actor and secondly I suspect that many things in this film are quite prophetic. Politically I see a form of marshall law coming to America as it changes under the weak leadership of Obama ( Barry the Kenyan ) He seems to be dividing the American public and is determined to disarm them leaving them defenceless against a corrupt government. His foreign policy is no better and many Americans that voted for him are now waking to smell the Joe. Will such marshall law see the general public herded into the many FEMA camps being built on the American mainland? Will Russia and China strike when civil unrest reveals itself on the American mainland. A very good film.
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on 19 February 2013
In one of the scenes in "The siege" you catch a brief glimpse of the twin towers in the background and this film in some ways predicts 9/11 in that it is based on a series of terrorist outrages on American soil that starts with a suicide bombing of a busload of passengers, it continues with the bombing of a theatre and culminates in a truck full of explosives crashing into the FBI building in New York killing 600 people. This leads to martial law being declared, the army moving in when the politicians believe that the FBI are failing to catch those involved and the Muslim community being targeted in much the same way as Japanese Americans were targeted and put into detention camps in the USA after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941.

It is exciting, thought provoking and very well made and Denzel Washington as an FBI agent, Annette Benning as a CIA agent and Bruce Willis as an army commander turn in great performances to make the film a memorable experience. Given how frightened and angry people felt after 9/11 it is not difficult to believe that something of this kind could easily happen if a series of bombings took place, it was difficult to find the bombers and the public clamour for something drastic to be done. The atmosphere of fear engendered by the continual bombings, the frustration of the law enforcement authorities as they try to apprehend the bombers is well conveyed in "The siege" and it can only be hoped that something of the kind does not happen in the US or here.
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on 15 May 2009
this film was i beileve, made before 9/11, and so has a chilling feel to it when you watch it for the first time. It is an easily watched film and has a good story behind it - action packed but without trashy hollywood over-the-topness. This, coupled with sterling performances by denzil washington and annette benning, makes for a very entertaining view.
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