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While the film has its detractors, THE SIEGE ($30) is a movie that I like better each time I see it. Sure, some aspects of the film are predictable; however, THE SIEGE features a number of strong performances that compensates for the filmís predictability factor and other shortcomings. For those unfamiliar with THE SIEGE, this film is a thought provoking political thriller, which paints an unflattering picture of a world in the grip of terrorism. In addition, there is enough action and suspense to appeal to genre fans, but as I said above, it is the strength of the filmís performances that makes THE SIEGE worth watching.

As the film opens, we find the volatile situation in the Middle East escalating, with American troops stationed overseas coming under attack by an extremist group. Shortly after the most recent attract, unknown assailants kidnap the religious leader who is believed to be responsible for the assault on the Americans. The action of THE SIEGE is then shifted to New York City, where we meet FBI Special Agent Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington) who finds himself facing terrorist acts on American soil. After a warning, a group of heavily armed men hijack a NYC bus threatening to blow it up. When Hubbard arrives on the scene, he and his Arab-American partner Frank Haddad (Tony Shalhoub) are able to negotiate the release of the children, who are amongst the hostages. However, as soon as the television cameras arrive, the terrorists set off the explosives- killing themselves and everyone else left on the bus.

During the course of his investigation, Hubbard butts head with Elise Kraft (Annette Bening), a cagey CIA operative, who isn't telling everything she knows about the terrorist cell operating in New York City. Although, the FBI is able to locate the remaining members of the cell and put them out of commission, another series of bombings begin. With the body count escalating, the situation in NYC becomes so desperate that the President is forced to declare martial law- placing the city under the command of General William Devereaux (Bruce Willis). With an occupying force now in Brooklyn, the General begins to put a squeeze the borough's Arab residents who may be sheltering the terrorist cell. The last vestiges of constitutional law go by the wayside when the soldiers begin rounding up any Arab male that fits the terrorist profile and detaining them in a makeshift stockade. Since Hubbard believes that the General's tactics can only worsen an already interminable situation, he redoubles his efforts to take out the remaining terrorist cell before New York becomes unrecognizable as an American city. The cast of THE SIEGE also includes Sami Bouajila, Ahmed Ben Larby, Mosleh Mohamed, Lianna Pai, Mark Valley, Jack Gwaltney, David Proval and Lance Reddick.

Rectifying the mistake of their first DVD release of THE SIEGE, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment now offers the film with 16:9 enhancement for wide screen displays. Framed at 2.35:1, this new enhanced transfer is sharper and more detailed than the previous issue, which was pretty good for a 4:3 wide screen presentation. Colors are strongly rendered, although the flesh tones appear completely natural. All of the hues are solid, without any signs of distortion or bleeding. Blacks are right on the money, plus the image boasts excellent shadow detail, clarity and depth. The film element used for the transfer displayed a handful of minor blemishes that are easily overlooked. Digital compression artifacts are nowhere to be seen on this dual layer DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is excellent; handling the film's dialogue driven moments and scenes of explosive action with equal aplomb. Channel separation is excellent across the forward soundstage, with effective panning of sound effects. The rears are equally well deployed, with the split surround channels utilized in aggressive fashion. Dialogue is crisp and fully intelligible, even through a few bombastic moments. The bass channel is solid and hits hard when it has to. For those whose home theaters are so equipped, a 5.1 channel DTS track is also encoded onto the DVD. DTS adds greater clarity and depth to what is already an impressive sound mix under Dolby Digital. Graeme Revellís impressive musical score also benefits from the extra resolution of the DTS track. Other soundtrack options include English and French Dolby Surround. English and Spanish subtitles are provided on the DVD. The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer.

THE SIEGE is a solid piece of entertainment that also forces the audience to confront the thought to terrorism on American soil, as well as think about the freedoms that we take for granted. The re-mastered DVD of the film certainly ups the ante in the realm of sight and sound, so if you haven't checked out the film previously, you may want to add THE SIEGE to the list of things to feed your home theater.


The Siege



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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