Sigh. I remember the day's when action films relied on skill instead of explosions. All to often today, the common action film would rather give us numerous big explosions instead of providing us with an intelligent plot that makes the viewer think. 1998's Enemy of the State, even 8 years later, still holds up as one of the best films of Smith's career and simply an example of a great action film.
In Tony Scott's film Enemy of the State, we see a man named Robert Dean (Will Smith). Mr.Dean is a Washington D.C. lawyer whose life is suddenly turned upside down. He is fired from his job and his wife tells him to leave. Dean soon realizes that an old friend passed highly sensitive information onto him. Now Dean must fight for his life while uncovering why these men have ruined his life.
In the beginning of the film, we see a man named Reynolds (Jon Voight) "murder" a very high ranking government official who was opposing a law that would make governmental snooping much easier. We see a little bit later a man named Daniel Vavitz (Jason Lee) whom Dean went to school with. Vavitz is busy watching a tape he filmed of some ducks eating food when he notices a "murder" taking place. Recognizing the murdered man as the high ranking senator, he immediately calls one of his friends telling him what he saw. He decides to make a copy when, Very smoothly I might add, the camera pans to a bunch of people sitting inside what looks to be a typical white van. They are surrounded by a bunch of electronic equipment that apparently assists them in the spying on Vavitz's conversation. One of the men (Seth Green) picks up the man and calls Reynolds informing him that he is "hearing" this conversation between Vavitz and his friend talking about the murder. Reynolds tells his men to immediately go "fix" this problem. The following scenes introduce Dean into the equation.
There is one scene in particular where we see Dean being confronted by two of Reynolds men at his household. The men question Dean about some "sensitive information" that may have been passed on to him. Dean has no idea what these people are questioning him about. Curious about what they told him about, Dean goes to check the packages he purchased earlier that day only to find nothing. When Dean's house is broken into, he is made to believe that children are responsible for the break-in. What Dean doesn't realize is that Reynolds men have now encrypted every piece of equipment in his house with cameras, location or sound devices. The rest of the film introduces Dean to a new character simply named Brill (Gene Hackman) who reveals to Dean that Reynolds is a man who is sneaky, sly and will do whatever is needed to get what he wants done.
Will Smith's portrayal of Robert Dean may be Smith's finest role to date. He has such ferociousness for the truth that the audience can't help but want Dean to succeed. I've always felt that Smith is a talented actor (especially in The Legend of Baggar Vance), but he always seems to take these roles that are dull and boring (or maybe as South Park put it, '20 Million Dollars Daddy'). Legendary Actor Jon Voight really doesn't need much explanation here as no matter what role he takes, Voight brings his 'A' game certainly raising the credibility of any picture, no matter how dull the film is (evidence in Michael Mann's 2001 picture Ali). The rest of the supporting cast is solid adding to that credibility level that Voight brings.
Director Tony Scott, despite his newest film Déjà Vu being slightly lackluster, had a role of success in the 90's with this film, Crimson Tide, and True Romance. Enemy of the State, similar to Smith, may be Scott's finest direction to date. The film has an eerie feel to it especially in today's world. Even though the idea of the government knowing more than it tells its citizens is nothing new, Enemy at the State, especially when the film came out in 1998, showcased a whole different ballgame for governmental spying. As I type this right now, the film just turned 8 years old but still contains an extremely important message that makes the film simply excellent and a blast to watch.
Presented in a 1080p, MPEG-2 Encoded, 2:35:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio, Tony Scott's Enemy of the State has a transfer that is a huge step over the current SD-DVD.
The film's print, hovering over the 8 year mark, was recently re-mastered for the 2006 Unrated Edition that hit SD-DVD a few months back. Due to this fact, the image presented here looked cleaner and had an overall sharper feel to it. Color usage, while mostly containing subdued blues and blacks, adhered to the typical Tony Scott visual style. Detail, while not completely improved, still was good as we could notice the little fibers on jackets and the ripples left behind in the water from the ducks in the opening sequence.
I did notice a bit of grain in some of the inner van sequences and a few of the office sequences, but never did the level of grain become overbearing where it generally affected the entire viewing experience. Overall I found the print was in near perfect condition with a bit of grain, excellent use of colors and detail and little to no compression issues. A solid job here Buena Vista.
Arriving with an English PCM 5.1 Surround Sound Audio Track (48kHz/24-Bit), for such a dialogue heavy film, Enemy of the State really sounded great especially in a few key sequences.
Dialogue was clean and clear with no real instance of it becoming muddled or hard to hear (which was especially pleasant in the final showdown sequence considering all the weapons that were used). Dynamic Range went from excellent (check out the sequence where Jason Lee's character is being chased. I noticed little discrete effects such as various car's screeching and birds cawing).
Surround usage is really where this track shines. Pick any real active sequence (my favorite was the scene where Dean was being chased through the hotel) and sit back for a truly aural experience. I loved the attention to detail here as I felt that I was running along side Dean through the tunnel as drivers yelled at Dean to move out of their way. On the soundtrack level, Trevor Rabin's score adds to that creepy, eerie effect the film gives us. The music was mixed in perfectly with the dialogue and sound effects with neither becoming an issue. Similar to the video, a solid job here Buena Vista.
Enemy of the State has always been one of my favorite Tony Scott films from the first time I saw in theaters back in 1998. The film trades the typical moronic action formula for a skillful chase thriller. This Blu-Ray release boasts improved video, great audio, but is rather absent in the feature area especially considering this is a BD-50 Dual Layer Disc. You would think Buena Vista could have ported more extras over or came up with some new ones (like a commentary track). Still the provided extras were rather interesting (especially the making of). Considering my immense enjoyment of the film, I'm going to Recommend this title to all action fans as it, 8 years later, still contains an incredibly creepy, eerie story about what our government knows.
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