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Feature


Robert Dean (Will Smith) is a successful New York lawyer, working on a high profile case in the run up to Christmas. If his life wasn’t stressful enough with the mob to deal with on a daily basis, he runs into an old college friend who then meets a sticky end under a fire engine just seconds later. Unknown to Dean, he is now the custodian of video footage of the murder of a congressman who refused to go along with the nefarious plans of NSA official Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voight). The NSA then uses all the technology at their disposal to ruin Dean’s life and track him down before he realises what he has in his hands.

Enemy Of The State
With Enemy of the State nearing its tenth birthday and having only seen it once before, I was expecting it to show its age. Movies that depend on technology tend to look old very quickly, but aside from the old school mobile phones, I was surprised how modern it still looked. In actual fact it is probably more relevant now than it could have been at any time in the last decade, with the central premise of the US government monitoring its own people mirroring the recent scandal of NSA wiretapping. At the risk of kicking off a raft of comments for and against this practice, I’ll move on quickly…

What also surprised me now was the strength of the supporting cast in Enemy of the State. In addition to Will Smith and Jon Voight, Hollywood’s go-to guy for old-timer credibility, we’re also treated to performances by Gene Hackman, Gabriel Byrne, Tom Sizemore, Jack Black, Jason Lee, Scott Caan, Jake Busey, Seth Green, Jamie Kennedy and Barry Pepper, some of them in uncredited appearances. I know that back in 1998 a lot of them were pretty much unknown, but the relative successes of their careers since then was a little off-putting because I felt so many of them were wasted in their roles, in particular Gabriel Byrne who leaves the screen almost as soon as he arrives.

Enemy Of The State
While there’s plenty going on away from Will Smith’s character in the early scenes, it takes him a while to get into the action. Once he does, the story moves quickly from one set-piece to another, with the NSA’s cutting-edge surveillance technology providing the plot devices that join them together. The only real problem I had with this movie was that the events that link one scene with another are sometimes based on nothing but chance. The most obvious is the way Dean gets involved in the action. Not only does he have to be in the same store that Jason Lee’s character bursts into while on the run from the NSA, he also has to know him from college, be carrying bags big enough to drop the video player into and hand him his business card before he leaves the store. See what I mean? If any one of those things didn’t happen, the Fresh Prince would have gone home to his wife and kids that night and had a nice quiet Christmas.

As for the way the film looks, we’re in classic Tony Scott territory, with fast camera movements, quick edits and diagonal camera angles. He does well to make grey December days in New York look colourful with bright lighting wherever he can. I did get the feeling that he was playing this one by the numbers though; for example, he did the final showdown a lot better in True Romance. Coming between the craziness of Men In Black and Wild Wild West, this is one of Will Smith’s more toned-down performances and with some scenes set in similar locations to I Am Legend I found it made a pretty decent companion to his latest movie.

Enemy Of The State

Video


Good news and bad news in the video stakes. The good news is that the movie is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen (1080p). The picture is a lot more detailed than its little DVD brother and the colours are strong, with bright primary colours and satisfactory black level. The bad news is that the print doesn’t seem to have gone through any remastering process for this release, or if it has then it still needs some attention. There were obvious scratches and imperfections on the DVD version and I’m sorry to say some of them are still here. I compared both versions and can confirm that some of the same scratches occur in the same places. Most obvious of all is the wobbly Touchstone logo at the beginning of the movie, which set my expectations lower than they should have been from a disc that came in a case with ‘maximum hi-def experience’ written on the cover.

Audio


It’s a similar story with the audio quality but to a lesser degree, with DTS and PCM options available in various languages and for some reason the audio description option from the standard DVD isn’t included here. Composers Harry Gregson-Williams and Trevor Rabin have both worked with Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer before and since Enemy of the State so you should know exactly what to expect from the soundtrack. The music sounds powerful, with booming bass and the dialogue is clear. There are plenty of explosions and gunshots that sound fine through the surround channels but I wasn’t blown away by the action as much as I thought I would be by such a big movie.

Enemy Of The State

Extras


Unfortunately, there’s more bad news here. Aside from the ‘Movie Showcase’, which is no more than key scenes edited together for no particular reason, all we get is the same extras that we got on the DVD released in 2001. Four deleted scenes are available but there’s no ‘play all’ option, so watching all of them in one go involves a lot of button pressing for not much return. The ‘Making of’ featurette clocks in at just under thirty minutes and is genuinely interesting, including interviews with the technology advisors that Tony Scott called on to tighten up the screenplay. ‘All Access: The Showdown’ goes behind the scenes at the final gunfight, showing Tony Scott advising the actors when they should shoot and get shot. The theatrical trailer rounds out the extras and as is the case with the Blu-ray discs I’ve reviewed so far, is in standard definition and can be used to compare the quality of regular DVD with high definition.

Enemy Of The State

Overall


On the whole, I'd say that Enemy of the State is a decent techno-thriller that works better when you try not to think about why things are happening and just enjoy them when they do. It does suffer from an overly-complicated plot involving the NSA and the mob and it feels like its running time was trimmed down significantly. An extended cut was released on DVD in 2006, which makes me think this is a favourite for an early Blu-ray double-dip. The transfer doesn’t seem to have been given too much attention in this upgrade to Blu-ray from regular DVD and without any exclusive HD content, unless you’re the biggest Will Smith fan in the world I’d move this down your wish list until it comes down in price or a remastered extended edition is released.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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