Enemy of the State

Enemy of the State ★★★½

Although it is at least half an hour too long, stuffed full of non-sensical abbreviated jargon, embarrassingly dated by its obsessive focus on technology, treats women as little more than lingerie models, somehow turns a cheeky suited lawyer into a on-the-money killing machine and packed full of ridiculous plotting, Enemy of The State is still great trashy fun.

That's what Tony Scott was a master of, somehow pitching us into hyper kinetic worlds that made no sense whatsoever yet remained eminently watchable. He knew how to chose a cast that would propel his insanely testosterone style into the stratosphere and keep us tagging along with it, no matter how implausible.

17 years on there is something quite unerring about his decision to pick out the NSA and their spying capabilities. The nineties saw the rise of camcorders and miniaturised video tech appearing on the side of buildings and into the hands of law-enforcement agencies. We all know that Scott loved to throw us around from one camera angle to the next even on the simplest of chase sequences and his possibilities here are endless. We even get NSA tech whizz Jack Black defying physics with a 180 camera spin to focus on the shadows of a shopping bag, which is then thrown up on a green digital matrix for closer examination. It doesn't help their case one little bit of course but what's that got to do with showing off for the sake of it?

The first hour is probably as close to a 70's conspiracy thriller as Scott was ever going to get, even taking in a homage to Coppola's The Conversation as Smith and Bonet meet in a public area to talk. The ghost of Harry Caul doesn't just linger there however, especially with Hackman's presence in the second half of the film. Later we are taken back to his secluded industrial spot, like Caul's it is surrounded by copper mesh, full of specialist surveillance hardware. When the NSA figure out who this stranger is helping Smith, an old picture of Hackman's character appears on screen, moustache and glasses in place recreating the image of Caul. You can't tell directly as the photo doesn't stay onscreen for long but it may even be a picture from the very same film.

Scott laid out the template for the modern day action film but we have been left with successors like Bay and co who lack the ability to make sense out of the clutter flying through the frame. The idea of Big Brother watching, listening and recording our every step has now become a certified reality and with those ideas, Scott made a film that retains a level of intelligence but also remains nothing more than cheap, disposable fun.

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