Enemy of the State by David Marconi
Gene Hackman acts in this film and, although his part in enemy of the State is nothing to compare with what this titan has given audiences in The French Connection, Unforgiven, The Conversation, Mississippi Burning, Bonnie and Clyde, The Royal Tenenbaums, Night moves and so many other brilliant performances, this makes the feature at least watchable, if not on a level with the aforementioned phenomenal, acclaimed works, some of them masterpieces.
Will Smith has the leading part and even if he is a talented, charming, skilled operator, this part is not his best work, maybe because he is sometimes over the top, some acting is forced or artificial, or maybe the script is not so outstanding, although it offers an interesting plot, with some gripping action and a relevant main theme in the world of today, with Oxford Analytica, Facebook and others taking so much information and using or abusing it for nefarious ends, once in a while- or is it very often?
Robert Clayton Dean aka Will Smith has some minor- and then major- disputes with his wife, Carla, over the interference of the government – or some loose cannons, mischievous high ranking elements within agencies- and the fact that they try to learn so much – is it everything- about what people do, infringing on their basic human rights, such as the right for privacy.
In the first instance, Robert Clayton seems to think- as others do- that as long as he is not preparing a massive attack or other terrible actions, agencies can look into his correspondence or whatever, only to change his mind as he soon becomes the target of agents that first want something he has and then are bent on eliminating him and all those who might have information about their illegal, murderous activities.
Thomas Brian Reynolds aka Jon Voight is one of the leaders of the NSA- this is where we need to emphasize that although conspiracy theories are so popular, unfortunately- since they indicate some psychological shortcomings-the script had insight, for later revelations would underline that the NSA has been indeed involved in a lot of spying, much of which was illegal and more than scary.
This vicious Thomas Reynolds meets near a lake with Congressman Philip Hammersley aka the legendary Jason Robards, the former tries to convince the latter that a favorable law- for his agency, never mind the public at large- has to pass through congress, where the support of the senior politician is crucial, if the bill is to have any chance to pass and the target is not enthusiastic and refuses, being killed in cold blood for his opposition.
In the aftermath, a wild life researcher is collecting the tape he has recorded to observe the activity of ducks, across the pond from the fatal encounter and looking at it, he sees the killing in the background, alerts a friend, attracting the attention of the elements in the NSA that need to cover this elimination and kill any witness and destroy possible evidence.
A special team is engaged in murdering those who are trapped in this secret, heinous operation, innocent or knowledgeable, they chase the researcher who has seen the murder-these are scenes we have seen before in Mission Impossible (one, two and the rest), James Bond- the young man crosses paths with Robert Dean in a shop and inserts the evidence tape in one of the shopping bags of the lawyer, who then becomes also a target, is followed, harassed and then attacked by elements from the NSA.
In a campaign of slander and defamation, the spies use all the material they can get to take down their enemy- who does not even know that he has such explosive evidence for some time- photos with Robert Dean and a woman he works with, but had had an affair with are made to look as if he is still cheating on his wife, when he tries to pay, he finds that all his cards are useless and he has finally lost everything.
Many of the aspects of the plot have turned out to be accurate, as it is now known that various entities are exploiting all the data that they can gather, by hook or by crook- the most recent scandal has Mark Zuckerberg testifying before the American Congress, on the issue of the massive data theft, involving more than eighty million users of Facebook.
On the other hand, it also feels farfetched, although some of the technology is surely there and prying eyes can watch through satellites, get access to security, surveillance cameras from shops and streets, find in a second when and where a card they watch is being used, face recognition software may allow so many fugitives to be caught, it still appears that the “State” has too much in its hands, some of these capabilities were not there when the film was produced and are not available even now…or are they?
In the reading of the fictional NSA, the Enemy of the State is Robert Clayton Dean, even if he has done nothing wrong, on the contrary, he is the one that could help the authorities to eliminate rogue, criminal, murderous individuals and groups from infested organizations, if he survives the orchestrated attacks- in raids on his house, he has had clothes, shoes, objects opened and microphones inserted, making the lawyer a walking target, always on the screens of the Agency.
He meets Edward Lyle – the otherworldly Gene Hackman in a role that reminds cinefils of The Conversation, where he is a specialist in spying on men and women, able to listen in on their conversations no matter what the circumstances, if they walk in parks or they just spend time in the open.
Edward Lyle is able to notice that the hero is carrying bugging devices, takes out a few, but then tells him that he needs to take his clothes off and chasing scenes involve the protagonist running through a hotel in his underwear, then on balconies and finally through the streets, finding refuge with the former CIA specialist, who has a hiding place in an abandoned warehouse or factory, protected with many cameras and a few bombs.
The villains enter the premises, where Edward Lyle has a nice cat, fireworks and explosions follow, then a car chase and a confrontation between the hero and his savior, who had not wanted this adventure in his life, but has now to escape goons, helicopters and all the paraphernalia of A State gone wild and rogue.
The former CIA operative highjacks a car, explains some deep truths to the ignorant Robert Clayton – portrayed without finesse, with rather broad strokes and rather inadequately- who makes a call from a payphone in a gas station and then the Enemy is on their tail again…
Enemy of the State is definitely worth watching, but it is in very large part (80 %?) because of the mesmerizing presence of Gene Hackman- one of the Gods of Cinema.