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Enemy of the State

This thriller attacks our surveillance society - computers monitoring phone calls for the words "bomb," "President" and "Allah." Smith is a lawyer whose life in danger because he has proof that a congressman was killed for stopping a bill to make government snooping easier. At first, the lawyer doesn't know he has video of the congressman's faked suicide, overseen by a high government official, Reynolds (Voight, looking like Robert McNamara), whose vendetta against the lawyer includes sexual gossip, canceling his credit cards, getting him fired, and trying to frame him for the murder.

In real life, Anthony Lewis' N.Y. Times column told how Julie H. Steele, a bystander in the Ken Starr investigation, had her tax returns audited, her neighbors and boss questioned, and her adoption of an orphan threatened, for testifying that Kathleen Willey asked her to lie about a meeting with President Clinton. But the government isn't the enemy, this movie says, but bureaucrats who use it for their own ends and to cover their tracks. Reynolds only cares about himself; the communications bill would make his job easier, and maybe make him richer, so he has the congressman killed for opposing it.((Director Scott films technology with artistry. Footage of the lawyer trying to find out who's after him and why is shot from spy satellites, surveillance cameras, listening devices, bugs, wiretaps, and database searches. A satellite reads a license plate - since multiple Web sites can show the roof of anyone's home, it's possible the NSA really can read license plates.

The lawyer's only friend is an underground spy, Brill (Hackman), who worked for the U.S. until 1980, and has since worked in surreptitious communications. His high-tech headquarters is hidden in a warehouse, fenced in by copper mesh. He says the feds' computers can monitor any phone call, and do, more than law allows.

Two big chases end in a double-cross and shootout, with brief scenes of the lawyer, his wife (King) and former girlfriend (Bonet), but it isn't about people. Smith is credible as a lawyer blindsided by misused state power. Voight's bureaucrat believes his job puts him above the law. "We're at war 24 hours a day," he barks near the beginning. The cartoon Pogo famously said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
Director(s): Tony Scott
Writer(s): David Marconi
Cast: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Lisa Bonet, Jon Voight, Regina King
Release Date: 1998   
Keyword: Congressman's faked suicide; Will Smith; government surveill
Target Age: 15+   Category: government
Documentary: no
Language: English   Reviewer's Name: Micah
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