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The Siege

The Siege (1998)



Average Rating: 5/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 8

An exciting, well-paced action film.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.1/5
User Ratings: 53,228

My Rating

Movie Info

Edward Zwick directed this action thriller about Islamic militants unleashing terrorism in New York City. As FBI Terrorism Task Force-chief Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington) investigates, a false-alarm bomb threat is followed by a legit bomb, with many killed when a Brooklyn bus explodes. Agents track a suspect through Brooklyn, while Hub teams with Middle East expert and NSA operative Elise Kraft (Annette Bening). After the FBI wipes out three Arabs in a Brooklyn apartment, an explosion in a

Apr 20, 1999

20th Century Fox

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All Critics (72) | Top Critics (19) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (33) | DVD (20)

It's difficult to sustain a responsible subtext when you're delivering the jolts required to keep butts in the seats.

May 11, 2001 | Comment (1)
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Even at its most unbelievable, The Siege has the performances of Washington and Bening to fall back on, and a theme that understands that what's difficult is not choosing right from wrong but 'choosing the wrong that's more right.'

February 14, 2001 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

More political than entertaining, The Siege is a reflection of our heightened awareness and sensitivity to terrorism and the price of freedom.

June 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Calgary Movies
Calgary Movies

Zwick (Courage Under Fire) has fashioned another ethical tour de force that reveals his dedication to serious filmmaking.

November 6, 2003 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

If you like political thrillers with lots of explosions, domestic terrorism, and vein-popping army Generals, this movie's for you.

December 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

A gripping build up gives way to an incredibly dumb finish.

October 9, 2002 | Comment (1)
Jam! Movies

A flawed but not uninteresting political thriller that struggles with middling success to satisfy the dual aims of being both commercially entertaining and socially significant.

June 5, 2002 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

The Siege attempts to update the bluffs and counterfeints of the Cold War spy thriller, not to advance any ideological point but to obscure the fact that it doesn't have one.

March 5, 2002 Full Review Source: Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound

The Siege raises a lot of important questions about racism, free speech, and the power of government. It doesn't deal with them particularly effectively.

February 28, 2002 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

It was like eating celery - crunchy and loud and tasty - then zero caloric content after all that trouble chewing it.

June 14, 2001 Full Review

The Siege is a good idea that is never quite executed as it should be.

February 27, 2001 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

While the ending was pure Hollywood, and there was too much cute spy stuff, most of the film was suspenseful, engaging and thought-provoking.

January 1, 2001 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

The first hour is riveting, with a couple of particularly tense scenes. But things go hideously awry from there as the ham-fisted messages begin to dominate.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Wildly schizoid, The Siege manages the feat of being both intelligent and irresponsible, serious and silly.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee

In all, quite a disappointment.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus
Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus

The movie does deliver its share of action and spectacle, but action and spectacle are clearly not all Zwick and company had in mind with this fumbled Siege.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

At some point, the movie itself crosses the line, from a modestly thoughtful attempt to extrapolate a drama from real and urgent events to a generic action piece with predictable good and bad guys and pat, civics-book morals.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco Examiner

The Siege is constantly heavy-handed, not entertaining or insightful, and just goes to prove that not even the best actors can save a film that lacks a satisfactory screenplay.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for The Siege

Well back in 1998 this entire premise seemed quite far fetched, virtually in the realms of fantasy by the kind of overly paranoid Yanks that stockpile guns and tinned food. Then unfortunately the unthinkable happened as America was indeed attacked and hit hard on their own turf with the dreadful September 11, 2001 terrorist suicide bombings of the World Trade Center in New York. It is only now that this film really does have a much darker meaning with the events of the movie disturbingly realistic when once thought of as hyper reality.

The story simply sees New York under threat from terrorists in random attacks across the city by an unknown force suspected to be Arabic. Its up to Denzel Washington and Tony Shalhoub to track down and stop the attackers before things get out of hand. Of course things do get way way out of hand as the attacks become more ferocious and the FBI's leads dwindle. In the end the military are drafted in as martial law is declared with Brooklyn locked down around the Arabic community.

Apart from the very real threat of terrorist attacks anywhere at anytime the films main focus is on racial profiling, hardcore stereotyping and prejudice. There is a strong morality tale between good and evil that not only covers the obvious but the use of Nazi-like tactics by American troops on Arabic/Muslim American citizens as they are rounded up and detained in mass makeshift holding areas. I really don't need to go into the obvious concentration camp connections here do I. But there is more as we also get Bruce Willis (badly miscast) as a Major General who is intent on getting information out of suspects in any way possible, illegally of course. Here you see the little twist of the Yanks being no better than the terrorists they are fighting, becoming what they fear and stand against, taking away the right to a court of law, innocent before proven guilty, liberty and justice, human rights go bye bye.

When the shit hits the fan and terror is taking control of the streets, power is granted to various officials, its then that we see the darker side of some people. Willis' character has the orders to basically protect his country and the American way of life by any means necessary, do what needs to be done whilst the upper echelons look the other way. Of course Washington's character stands firm and will not allow this kind of behaviour to carry on, there are still laws and rights. Gotta be honest though at times you do feel he is being too PC considering the circumstances, he's almost too heroic and saintly when in reality someone might buckle. The message is forced even more once Shalhoub's sons is also rounded up and taken away causing him to toss his badge. The message slaps you across the face sure but it works effectively.

This being a Washington movie you know its gonna be decent, you just know...and this doesn't disappoint. Visually its very slick and effective in getting across its now very realistic message. The only let down for me was probably Bening who didn't really fit her part in my opinion, she comes as someone more concerned about their hair looking right plus her plot setup with the Middle Eastern chap is too obvious really. Tension is reasonable but the film is a little too mainstream for you to actually start sweating over the outcome, its not like Washington is gonna bite the bullet is it, everyone else is fair game but not Denzel.

The ending is way too God bless America for my liking, although expected. Too neat and tidy as all the citizens are released with schmaltzy hugging scenes and Washington preaching about their forefathers and how they fought and died for the life they have today. He's right sure but it feels too much like an all American Boy Scout speech, you half expect the Star-Spangled Banner to kick off with fireworks in the sky.

As said its funny how back in 1998 this all seemed so unlikely, the notion that the US could be attacked on their own soil in such a devastating way. This whole martial law scenario and the rounding up of specific people was always possible but it still felt more like an old World War II flashback. These days the entire aspect has come true to a certain degree although not as bad as depicted in the film, its a much easier prospect to see becoming a reality within the US these days that's for sure. In the end the story boils down to the terrorists winning on a psychological level simple because the US way of life has been changed dramatically. Justice and democracy have gone out the window, fear and suspicion sits in its place.
July 19, 2014

Super Reviewer

Elise Kraft: It's never the question that's indiscreet, just the answer. 

"An enemy they can't see. A nation under siege. A crisis they can't control."

I can certainly see why there are all the negative reviews for The Siege, but I can't say I didn't like it. I didn't like aspects of it, but as a whole it was a thoroughly engaging and entertaining movie. It just didn't have a whole lot more to offer the audience. The movie seems to saying contradicting things at the same time and the movie is filled to the brim with wise ass, but bad jokes. Like the joke of Bruce Willis as a General and the dialogue that comes out of his mouth. That was a bad joke.

When the U.S. secretly kidnaps a terrorist; a string of terrorist acts start to occur in New York. An FBI agent is then in for the ride of his life as he tries to stop all the different cells of the terrorist group from executing their destruction. Soon the crisis gets so far out of hand, that martial law is enacted in Brooklyn and people of Arab descent are quarantined. The movie is a little eerie in that it was made 3 years before 9/11, but also because of the whole tie in with WW2 and the detainment camps that were made for the Japanese.

As far as the movie goes, it's just descent. Denzel Washington gives a performance that you would expect from him. He's doing pretty much the same thing as he did in... well, everything. He plays the strong FBI man of morals with intensity and fire, and makes the movie go down a lot easier than it should. I can't say the same for Annette Benning, who I thought was surprisingly bad, and Bruce Willis, who just seemed ridiculous. 

In the end, I got enjoyment from Zwick's ridiculously plotted and written film; but I still see it exactly for what it is. It's not a movie that was sending anyone messages about terrorists or that has any importance in the world at all. It's purely entertainment and that was its and purpose. So, on that level it isn't a complete failure.
November 9, 2012
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

Somehow most fail to realize that if the lead character had stayed out of the CIA and military's way thousands of lives could have been saved. The directors attempt to stick it to the man backfires spectacularly and ends up making himself and the movie look childish and reeking of pseudo-intellectualism.
January 4, 2012
Joe McCall

Super Reviewer

Edward Zwick has got to be the most underrated director in Hollywood. He has crafted some terrific films that unfortunately don't get the praise that they deserve. This is very much so the case with The Siege. After a Terrorist is secretly captured by the U.S, terrorist cells start a wave of terror attacks in New York City. First it's a bus, then it's theatre, then it's a hostage situation, after that it's the bombing of the FBI's counter terrorism New York headquarters. After these attacks, the President implements martial law in New York. I don't understand why this film has gotten so many bad reviews. Most of the reviewers hate the film for the wrong reasons. A little more than twelve years after it's initial release in cinema's, The Siege is relevant. Due because of the 9/11 attacks. Denzel Washington and Annette Bening give great performances. But one of the best here alongside Denzel Washington is Bruce Willis as General Williamn Devereaux, Willis is one cruel antagonist as his character takes control of the city through martial law and kills an American Citizen. The aspect of the film that stood out was Washington's performance and when he butts heads with Willis on screen, the mood gets very tense. Both actors are solid and with every seen they're in, it makes this film more thrilling. The film is not flawless by any means, however the story should appeal to everyone thats interested in Action / Thrillers dealing with terrorism. Considering that in September 2001, Al Qaeda carried out it's attacks on the World Trade Centre, The Siege can now be seen as almost a warning to what was to really come. A prophetic film, The Siege is a top notch action /thriller that delivers a relevant message. And considering that 9/11 happened, the events in the film though fictional would 3 years later after it's initial release be true. An underrated film.
December 12, 2010
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

    1. Anthony Hubbard: Melvin White can't spell decent.
    – Submitted by Jesse K (17 months ago)
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