Runaway Start to '99; Enemy of the State (15) Verdict: Audience-Friendly Thriller ***** Star Trek: Insurrection (PG) Verdict: Competent Sci-Fi for the Fans ***** What Dreams May Come (15) Verdict: Heavenly Effects, Hellish Script *****

Daily Mail (London), January 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Runaway Start to '99; Enemy of the State (15) Verdict: Audience-Friendly Thriller ***** Star Trek: Insurrection (PG) Verdict: Competent Sci-Fi for the Fans ***** What Dreams May Come (15) Verdict: Heavenly Effects, Hellish Script *****


Byline: CHRISTOPHER TOOKEY

ENEMY Of The State begins the New Year in style. It's the most enjoyable chase thriller since The Fugitive and firmly in the Hitchcock tradition where an unjustly accused man tries to clear his name while pursued by the implacable forces of law and order.

In this case, Will Smith (the likeable leading man from Independence Day and Men In Black) plays a complacent attorney who, over a few hours and for no reason that's obvious to him, loses his reputation, job and family. As if this weren't bad enough, he's framed for murdering his ex-mistress (Lisa Bonet) - and becomes increasingly convinced that angry members of the Mafia (led by Tom Sizemore) are after him.

With no money and not even a friendly politician to put a roof over his head, his one ally is a curmudgeonly surveillance expert (Gene Hackman on top form) who helps him discover that, unknowingly, he has come into the possession of a computer disc which shows a senior CIA official (Jon Voight) murdering a liberal Senator (Jason Robards) for opposing him over a new surveillance bill.

The breathless pace, glossy production and pounding soundtrack mean this could only be the work of director Tony (Top Gun) Scott and producer Jerry (Armageddon) Bruckheimer but it's up there among their classiest work, such as Crimson Tide.

Though conducted at breakneck speed and with minimal dialogue, the film pursues a serious and well-argued agenda.

It demonstrates how far intelligence services have intruded into our privacy and how easily lives can be ruined on a governmental whim.

Film buffs will notice similarities with some fine examples of Seventies paranoia, especially The Conversation and The Parallax View.

SOME critics will complain of shallow charac-terisation but this kind of thriller is not primarily concerned with profundity or character analysis.

Its job is to make us identify with a man who has been wrongly accused, thrill at his misfortunes and keep us guessing as to how he is going to get himself out of seemingly hopeless situations.

All of this is accomplished in great style, and screenwriter David Marconi sensibly ensures that the most glaring implausi-bilities occur within the first few minutes (could a person in Voight's position really behave so unscrupulously without a colleague blowing the whistle on him?).

If it goes on for about 20 minutes too long, it does so to accommodate a string of ingenious high-tech set-pieces and entertaining cameos from Gabriel Byrne, Stuart Wilson and Sizemore. All the actors create surprisingly substantial characters out of relatively thin material.

If you enjoyed North By Northwest or Midnight Run don't miss Enemy Of The State. It may not be deep, but it's thought-provoking and fun.

* STAR TREK fans will also not wish to miss Star Trek: Insurrection, in which the Enterprise comes to the rescue of a New Age space colony which has discovered the secret of living simply and ageing gracefully.

The secret seems to be to abhor manmade fabrics, invest heavily in pushup bras and dental care and smile a lot.

Understandably impressed to discover that such a society has evolved without mind-altering substances or a soundtrack by Joni Mitchell, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) falls for a woman more than 250 years his senior.

Meanwhile, the authorities have been encouraged by an ugly old humanoid (F. Murray Abraham) to indulge in a spot of ethnic cleansing by shipping the happy hippies elsewhere so that the ugly old humanoids can move in for a communal facelift. The lads and lasses of the Enterprise step in to save the better-looking underdogs, with predictable results.

DESPITE a few intentional laughs, there is an earnestly moral point. This is an exercise in American foreign policy wish-fulfilment, mapping out how they wish things might have gone in Bosnia, but plainly didn't. …

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Runaway Start to '99; Enemy of the State (15) Verdict: Audience-Friendly Thriller ***** Star Trek: Insurrection (PG) Verdict: Competent Sci-Fi for the Fans ***** What Dreams May Come (15) Verdict: Heavenly Effects, Hellish Script *****
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