Monday, August 23, 2010

The Siege

Not at all a good movie, by any means. The dialogue is miserable; Denzel is OK, but kind of coasting, Annette Bening is shrill and one-dimensional (she really can do better... cf., The Kids Are All Right), Bruce Willis is simply horrendous (and I say this as a fan), Tony Shalhoub isn't half-bad, but what's with that accent Mr. Monk?

Still, the film is worth seeing given everything that happened in the years after its release (1998). The plot, which one would have called contrived and offensive at the time, features terrorist attacks on New York City carried out by Islamic extremists, racist profiling and overreaction by the government, blowback from CIA shenanigans in the Middle East... it's all remarkably prescient. Occasional glimpses of the twin towers between the explosions add to the deep sense of unease that comes with hindsight.

Ultimately the movie feels a bit dated because the government's bad cop is a rogue military man in the Ollie North mold, rather than, say, a more up-to-date villain such as an ignorant and ideological president or a Machiavellian vice president.

Still, when all is said and done, the movie made me just a little proud of how my compatriots handled themselves after 9-11. In The Siege, federal overreaction takes the form of Army tanks in the streets and the rounding up and incarceration of all the young Muslim males in NYC. Yeah, the unnecessary war, the torture, the domestic spying that actually occurred were (are?) evil, really evil, but face it, domestically we could have done a lot worse... and may yet do so...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tana French

OK, listen up, you: Summer is almost over, put down that Lee Child or Stieg Larsson; don't you think you are ready for a grown-up thriller? Tana French's rich psychological crime novels, set in the Irish present and recent past, are simply the best. You may as well start with the first of the three, In the Woods, and then you should need no prompting from me to read The Likeness and Faithful Place, her latest. Of these, I would have to say the first two are nearly perfect. Faithful Place, which came out this summer, suffers from a bit too much dysfunctional Irish family melodrama, but to say it is a little weaker than the first two is to say A- instead of A+.