Enemy of the State Review

For a pricey lawyer, Robert Dean (Will Smith) sure can run. It is not just his speed either, as he is even capable of traversing the outside of a hotel, hopping window-to-window wearing nothing but his underwear.

Then again, when the NSA is after you because you inadvertently came into possession of a tape showing a politically motivated murder, chances are you could pull off some impressive physical feats as well.

That tape transfer, along with some of the technology babble, may be the only complaints with David Marconi’s script for Enemy of the State. The unbelievable chance that the original owner of the tape (played by Jason Lee) would be running from the NSA, pass through the very lingerie shop Dean is shopping at, and they even happen to be college buddies, is just a stretch that takes some serious suspension of disbelief.

Smith plays his character with his usual wry, sarcastic tone that seems out of place (making it even harder to believe he is a lawyer), but gives Enemy of the State some legitimate energy. This is a film as funny as it is serious in its attempt to warn us all about government surveillance, typically with heavy-handed dialogue, but the point is certainly clear.

Tony Scott directs with his usual frenzied style, although here it actually works. Visual effect shots of sweeping satellite dishes, overhead shots of people below, and frantic chases on the ground work in conjunction, rapid edits adding that sense of panic.

Enemy of the State works, despite its flaws, because it feels eerily real and remains relevant. Personal privacy continues to be an issue within this country, and Will Smith’s cocky lawyer is a sympathetic victim of it all. It also doesn’t hurt that Gene Hackman is basically reprising his role as Harry Caul, now with modern technology, from the The Conversation either.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

An early release from Bunea Vista/Disney, this disc is hampered by an outdated encode that fails to fully resolve the more complex details. In close, things are average, including facial definition and clothing textures. Generally soft, longer shots appear flat and digital, although artifacting from this MPEG-2 effort can be difficult to discern.

Ringing around high contrast edges is a constant concern, and a distraction. Black levels are fine, establishing adequate depth. A hot contrast can bloom, but is typically under control. The color scheme is natural, delivering flesh tones and environments that look realistic as intended, surely enough to disappoint the eye candy crowd.

Grain is noticeable, and thankfully the encode handles it well. Source damage is a concern, including countless specks and scratches. There does not seem to be any extravagant processing applied, and many of the problems could be cleared up with a future encode.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

An uncompressed PCM effort is beautifully mixed, delivering extensive surround use, wonderfully spaced fronts, and easily discernable dialogue. During the countless pans around satellites, random electronic beeps whip around the soundfield, and the low end catches the brunt of passing objects cleanly.

Chase scenes are vividly brought to life; street level ambiance, passing cars, and a great echo inside a tunnel late all add up to an intense audio experience. A warehouse explosion is a bit of a disappointment in terms of aggressive bass, but a car explosion not long after makes up for it.

Other notable aspects include a fantastic fire inside a hotel, the subtlety of rain hitting a van roof late, some great thunder, and a constant presence of helicopters buzzing around the soundfield. Tracking, whether front to back or right to left is consistently well done. The final shoot-out is as expected, with bullets whizzing by cleanly.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Four deleted scenes begin a short yet informative selection of bonus features. A nearly half hour making-of is well above average, while a fantastic “fly on the wall” look at the final shoot out lasts 14-minutes. Trailers and the long since discontinued Movie Showcase remain.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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