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Any Arab-American group who wants to protest this movie should try actually watching it first—I realize that actually experiencing a product that you have decided to hate is a distinctly illogical thing for most people, but hey, there's always time. Especially for a movie like "The Siege," which actually errs on the opposite side of the argument; so concerned about making New Yorkers a nice bunch of racially integrated Everymen, the movie actually packs way less of a punch than the subject matter requires.
Denzel Washington is the FBI agent faced with a terrible onslaught of Middle East-style terrorism right in the heart of New York City; Annette Bening is the CIA operative who may be sleeping a bit to close to the enemy to get good information. Enter Bruce Willis to shut down the Borough of Brooklyn when things get too intense, and you've got a film that is not just about Us vs. Them, but more about Us vs. the U.S...we become our own enemy when we are held captive by fear. And nothing inspires fear more than seeing the entire FBI building come down in a blast horrifyingly reminiscent of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Washington is good as always, his attachment to the job precluding any romantic sparks with Bening, who is aging gracefully into some pretty meaty roles. But the real show-stealer here is Tony Shalhoub (the chef from "Big Night"), who, as Denzel Washington's Lebanese partner, gives the movie a soul that all the bus explosions in Brooklyn try to blast away. He makes the suffering specific, rather than magnanimous, giving the whole ugly situation a sense of immediacy that the rest of the movie only guesses at.
Still, this is one blockbuster that sticks with you. Unlike asteroid movies and alien invasions, this is one horror that you can imagine actually happening, and despite the happy resolutions and the obvious bad guys, it taps uncomfortably into the sense of doom we've all got going into the new millennium. And that's not an easy call.
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