We’re all stuck in the house, right? There’s never been a better time to dig into those retro movies that you’ve always wanted to watch, but never had the time for. Personally, I’m a bit of a retrophile and tend to watch more older flicks than newer ones. On Fangirlish, you can now look forward to a retro review from me each Wednesday in this column. I’ll be highlighting one throwback movie a week, offering a spoiler-free review of the film, any throwback thoughts from my childhood, and where you can watch the movie yourself. Sit back, relax, and enjoy #WayBackWednesday.
Enemy of the State was not a film I caught in its original release, likely because it’s rated R and I didn’t really watch political thrillers at the age of 13. Let’s be honest, I don’t watch them that often at the age of 35. But with it being a week after inauguration day here in the US, it seemed appropriate to watch something with a slightly more political bent, so that’s why I rolled the dice on a Will Smith film that I’d never seen–Enemy of the State. Did you catch this one back in the day? Check out the trailer for Enemy of the State and we’ll get started with #WayBackWednesday.
Enemy of the State is a 1998 political thriller produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean), directed by Tony Scott (Numb3rs), and written by David Marconi (Live Free or Die Hard). The film stars Will Smith, Academy Award Winner Regina King (Watchmen), Gene Hackman, Lisa Bonet, Jon Voight (Anaconda), and comedians Jack Black, Seth Green, and Jamie Kennedy. When you’ve got a good cast, it makes selling an exciting film an easy task. Here are a few things I enjoyed about Enemy of the State.
The pacing in Enemy of the State works well. There are some slower points to set up the plot, but once the action starts, it’s hard to slow down! For a movie that clocks in at two hours and twelve minutes, it certainly doesn’t feel that long. I never felt that I was watching a long movie; I felt that I was watching an exciting movie! The fights and action sequences were top-notch as well, adding a dash of spy-fi and a bit of franticness to the story, moving it along at a good clip. There is a lot of running in this movie and I definitely said “Oh snap,” more than once watching Will Smith get out of these conundrums.
A Great Villain
I have not seen nearly as much of Jon Voight’s work as I should have, considering his decades-spanning career, but in the majority of his works that I have seen, he plays a villain (notably Anaconda, which I covered on a #WayBackWednesday post in October). He’s damn good at it too. Jon Voight plays one of the slimiest villains of all in Enemy of the State–a gross politician. Anyone who manipulates and utilizes power for their own gain or ends absolutely disgusts me. Voight’s Thomas Brian Reynolds doesn’t really scare me; he simply makes me cringe and boil with anger at his abuse of power. The fact that he can elicit that type of emotional response from me tells me that we’ve got a good villain for our story. It’s also amusing to me to watch Jack Black, Seth Green, and Jamie Kennedy work as technical support for our villain. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see a trio of comedians as backup for Jon Voight, but it just shows what happens when you take a chance on an older film.
Above all, Enemy of the State asks good questions. Regina King’s character asks the poignant question of the film: “Well, who’s gonna monitor the monitors of the monitors?” (This is especially interesting in light of her role in HBO’s Watchmen series that asks this very same question). In a film that demonstrates the dangers of government overreach and the loss of personal privacy, one must consider how these dangers might be realized today. For a film released in 1998, it did a good job predicting the future of how tech might be used against the people who signed up under the impression of personal use. Brill’s (Gene Hackman’s) words are prescient–“The more technology used, the easier it is for them to keep tabs on you. It’s a brave new world out there. At least it’d better be.” These words are even more sobering 23 years later. Good art always deals with life’s hard questions. Enemy of the State is no exception.
Are you looking for a film that’s full of action, excitement, and thoughtful philosophy? Are you like me and just want to watch everything that the absolute Queen Regina King has ever been in? If so, add Enemy of the State to your list. You’ll be glad you did.
Enemy of the State is currently streaming on HBO MAX.