Why it’s famous:
Enemy of the State is an action thriller about a lawyer, played by Will Smith, who is framed for a murder of a congressman by a corrupt National Security Agency (NSA) agent, played by Jon Voight. The film, which was released in 1998, came out during Smith’s prime and was his first blockbuster where he played a serious and in-depth character.
The film’s setting and plot were also believable to a certain extent, as government surveillance was a trending topic in the political discourse at the time.
Why you haven’t seen it:
You (or, more likely, your parents) probably opted to watch The Rugrats Movie instead of Enemy of the State when it came out in 1998. Despite being classified as a spy movie and action thriller, there’s also a political focus, which could be a turnoff for some viewers. Despite the fact Will Smith is a blockbuster machine and the movie had strong box office numbers, it’s not Smith’s most popular work, so it often gets lost in the shuffle.
Why it might be tough to get through:
There’s a lot of political talk, especially in the beginning of the movie. As a classic ‘90s film, cheesy one-liners and clumsy scenes are abundant. For those who aren’t fans of action films, the numerous foot and car chases may become a bit much, since some scenes feature little talking and mostly action. Also, if you’re not a fan of gratuitous violence, you’re in for a long one.
Why you should watch it anyways:
Will Smith, who has been in numerous box office hits and has been nominated for two Academy Awards and four Golden Globes, delivers a strong and convincing performance as the star of this movie. If you aren’t an admirer of his work, the film has stellar performances by a cast that includes Gene Hackman, Jack Black, Jon Voight, Seth Green and even a Larry King cameo to sweeten the deal. Despite being released over 15 years ago, the movie touches on a topic that’s even more relevant today—government surveillance.
Enemy of the State doesn’t slow down from the opening scene until the last two minutes. Although there are many different storylines, they are all shown to be connected at the end. If you enjoy thrillers, this movie is definitely worth watching.
Robert Dean: “I’m sick of this, you either shoot me or tell me what the fuck is going on.”
Thomas Reynolds: “Credibility, it’s the only currency that means anything on this playing field.”
Brill: “Huh, not too stupid after all.”
Rachel Banks: “How’s the trout?”
Robert Dean: “Tastes like fish.”
Larry King and Seth Green’s roles in this movie were uncredited.
Film critic Kim Newman said Enemy of the State could be considered as a sequel to The Conversation, a 1974 spy thriller starring Gene Hackman.
Mel Gibson, George Clooney, and Tom Cruise were also considered for Will Smith’s role, but producer Jerry Bruckheimer chose Smith because of the success the two had with Bad Boys.