Enemy of the State (film)

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Enemy of the State
Enemy of the State.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tony Scott
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer
Written by David Marconi
Starring Will Smith
Gene Hackman
Jon Voight
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams[1]
Trevor Rabin
Cinematography Dan Mindel
Edited by Chris Lebenzon
Touchstone Pictures
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • November 20, 1998 (1998-11-20)
Running time
132 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $90,000,000[2]
Box office $250,649,836[2]

Enemy of the State is a 1998 American spy-thriller about a group of rogue U.S. National Security Agency agents who kill a U.S. Congressman and try to cover up the murder. It was written by David Marconi, directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. It stars Will Smith and Gene Hackman, with Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, and Regina King in supporting roles.


In the late 1990s, U.S. Congress moves to pass new legislation that dramatically expands the surveillance powers of intelligence agencies on individuals, opposing political parties, non-profit movements and groups. However, one congressman, Phil Hammersley, remains firmly opposed to its passage, since he believes it would almost totally destroy the privacy of American citizens, and is preventing passage of the legislation.

U.S. National Security Agency official Thomas Reynolds meets with Hammersley in a public park to discuss about the passage. However, his men drug and murder Hammersley, spread painkiller pills over his car, place him in the car and push it in a lake to make it look like a drug-induced accident. However, they are unaware of a video camera set up by wildlife researcher Daniel Zavitz that has captured the entire incident. Zavitz discovers the murder on footage, and alerts an underground journalist, at the same time transferring the video to an innocuous video game cartridge. Reynolds learns of Zavitz's footage, and sends a team to recover the video. While fleeing, Zavitz runs into an old college friend, labor lawyer Robert Clayton Dean. Zavitz secretly passes the cartridge into Dean's shopping bag without his knowledge. Zavitz flees and is killed when hit by a fire truck. Reynolds soon has the underground journalist killed.

When the NSA discovers that Dean may have the video, a team raids his house and plants surveillance devices. Unable to find the video, the NSA proceeds to falsely implicate Dean of working with a mob family and seeing an ex-girlfriend he had an affair with. The subterfuge destroys Dean's life: he is dismissed from his job, his bank accounts are frozen, and his wife throws him out of the house. Trailed by the NSA, Dean meets with Banks, who sets up a meeting with "Brill", one of her secret contacts. After meeting an NSA agent posing as Brill, Dean realizes his error, only to have the real Brill, retired NSA agent Edward Lyle, ferry him to temporary safety and help rid Dean of most of the tracking devices he is unwittingly carrying. Dean ultimately rids himself of the final device and, fleeing his pursuers, escapes.

With Dean and Lyle in hiding, the NSA agents kill Banks and frame Dean for the murder. Lyle is able to recover the video that shows the NSA executing Hammersley's murder, but it is destroyed during an escape from an NSA raid. It is then revealed that Lyle was an expert in communications for the NSA; he was stationed in Iran in 1979 before the Iranian Revolution. When the revolution occurred, Lyle made it out of the country, but his partner, Rachel's father, was killed. Since then he has been in hiding, having faked his death during the revolution. Lyle tries to coax Dean into trying to run away, but Dean is adamant about clearing his name.

Dean and Lyle trail another supporter of the surveillance bill, U.S. Congressman Sam Albert, by videotaping him having an affair with his aide. Dean and Lyle "hide" bugs that Reynolds had used on Dean in Albert's room so Albert will find them and have the NSA start an investigation about Albert's tapping. Lyle also deposits $140,000 into Reynolds' bank account to make it appear that he is taking bribes.

Lyle contacts Reynolds to tell him he has the video of the Hammersley murder and asks to meet. Dean tells them that the Hammersley murder footage is in the hands of Mafia boss Paulie Pintero, whose office is under U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance. Dean, Reynolds, and the NSA team head into Pintero's restaurant, precipitating a gunfight that kills the mobsters, Reynolds, and several of his NSA team.

Dean and Lyle escape, with Lyle quickly disappearing from the authorities. The FBI discovers the plot behind the legislation, and the U.S congress is forced to abandon the passage plan to avoid a national scandal, though they cover up the NSA's involvement to prevent a large riot against the agency. Dean is cleared of all charges and is reunited with his wife. Lyle escapes to a tropical location, but sends a "goodbye" message to Dean.



The story is set in both Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and most of the filming was done in Baltimore. Location shooting began on a ferry in Fell's Point. In mid-January, the company moved to Los Angeles to complete production in April 1998.[3]

Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise were considered for the part that went to Will Smith, who took the role largely because he wanted to work with Gene Hackman, and had previously enjoyed working with producer Jerry Bruckheimer on Bad Boys. George Clooney was also considered for a role in the film. Sean Connery was considered for the role that went to Hackman. The film's crew included a technical surveillance counter-measures consultant who also had a minor role as a spy shop merchant. Hackman had previously acted in a similar thriller about spying and surveillance film, The Conversation (1974).


Enemy of the State received 71% positive reviews on the film-critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with 81 critics surveyed.[4] Metacritic displayed a normalized ranking of 67 out of 100 on the basis of 22 critics.[5] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times expressed enjoyment in the movie, noting how its "pizazz [overcame] occasional lapses in moment-to-moment plausibility;"[6] Janet Maslin of the New York Times approved of the film's action-packed sequences, but cited how it was similar in manner to the rest of the members of "Simpson's and Bruckheimer's school of empty but sensation-packed filming."[7] In a combination of the two's views, Edvins Beitiks of the San Francisco Examiner praised many of the movie's development aspects, but criticized the overall concept that drove the film from the beginning — the efficiency of government intelligence — as unrealistic.[8]

Kim Newman considered Enemy of the State a "continuation of The Conversation", the 1974 psychological thriller that starred Hackman as a paranoid, isolated surveillance expert.[9]

Movie Room Reviews gave the film 3 1/2 stars and said this about Will Smith in a more dramatic role; "Enemy of the State gave him a chance to show that he could play the action hero without the swagger or funny antics, which likely helped his career."[10]

Box office[edit]

The film opened at #2, behind The Rugrats Movie, grossing $20,038,573 over its first weekend in 2,393 theatres and averaging about $8,374 per venue.[11][12]

Real life[edit]

An episode of PBS' Nova titled "Spy Factory" reports that the film's portrayal of the NSA's capabilities are fiction: although the agency can intercept transmissions, connecting the dots is difficult.[13] However, in 2001, then-NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, who was appointed to the position during the release of the film, told CNN's Kyra Phillips that "I made the judgment that we couldn't survive with the popular impression of this agency being formed by the last Will Smith movie."[14] James Risen wrote in his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration that Hayden "was appalled" by the film's depiction of the NSA, and sought to counter it with a PR campaign on behalf of the agency.[15]

In June 2013 the NSA's PRISM and Boundless Informant programs for domestic and international surveillance were uncovered by The Guardian and Washington Post as the result of information provided by whistle blower Edward Snowden. This information revealed capabilities such as collection of Internet browsing, email and telephone data of not only every American, but citizens of other nations as well. The Guardian's John Patterson opined that Hollywood depictions of NSA surveillance, including Enemy of the State and Echelon Conspiracy, had "softened" up the American public to "the notion that our spending habits, our location, our every movement and conversation, are visible to others whose motives we cannot know."[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Enemy Of The State Music Review". Music from the Movies. 1998. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  2. ^ a b "Enemy of the State box office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  3. ^ Greg Huxtable (May 20, 2013). "ENEMY OF THE STATE - Production Notes". Cinema Review. 
  4. ^ "Enemy of the State Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  5. ^ "Enemy of the State Reviews, Ratings, Credits". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  6. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1998-11-20). "Enemy of the State: 'Enemy' Has a Little Secret: Let the (Nifty) Chase Begin". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (1998-11-20). "Enemy of the State: The Walls Have Ears, Eyes, and Cameras". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  8. ^ Beitiks, Edvins (1998-11-20). "High-octane "Enemy'". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  9. ^ Newman in Pramaggiore & Wallis, pg 283. From Film: a critical introduction
  10. ^ Mandell, Zack (2013-12-27). "Holiday Movie Month: "Enemy of the State" Review". Movie Room Reviews. Retrieved 2014-01-03. 
  11. ^ Natale, Richard (1998-11-23). "Rugrats' Outruns 'Enemy'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  12. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (1998-11-24). "Weekend Box Office : 'Rugrats' Has Kid Power". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  13. ^ Bamford, James; C. Scott Willis (February 3, 2009). "Spy Factory". NOVA. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved 6 September 2012. 
  14. ^ "Inside the NSA: The Secret World of Electronic Spying". CNN. March 25, 2001. 
  15. ^ Zeke J Miller (June 7, 2013). "Former NSA Chief Was Worried About "Enemy Of The State" Reputation". Time. 
  16. ^ John Patterson (16 June 2013). "How Hollywood softened us up for NSA surveillance". The Guardian. 

External links[edit]