A high-profile action/exploitation thriller set in the present, The Siege is really a fantasy that extrapolates from major terrorist attacks. Denzel Washington is FBI special agent Hubbard, "Hub" to his friends, whose anti-terrorist task force must track down the terrorist cells responsible for a spate of bombings in New York. His partner is an FBI agent of Arabian extraction (played convincingly by Tony Shalhoub), proving not all Arabs are bad guys--a point the film should be lauded for making again and again. Thrown into the mix is a CIA spy (played almost kittenish at times by Annette Bening), whose ties to the terrorists appear to be at the center of the conflicts. When the bombings escalate out of control, the President institutes martial law, sending in General Devereaux (played with impenetrable countenance by Bruce Willis) with tanks and troops to ferret out the terrorists. Echoes of Japanese-Americans in internment camps ring out as Arabs, including the son of the Arab-American FBI agent, are herded into a stadium. Periodic audio-montages of "man in the street" sentiments anchor the material in the present and show how serious and relevant the material is. But finally what we have is a taut and entertaining popcorn movie, giving itself the humanistic nod when it can. --Jim Gay
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