This review is of the TV-14 edited version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
It’s time for a film about the scary possibility of terrorists showing up to cause all kinds of terror on the city. It’s a pretty intense film to be sure although the heroes don’t make it any easier on themselves with all of the constant infighting. They seem to get in each other’s way as much as the villains do. It’s got a pretty solid premise even if I’d say it has some issues that keep it from being really solid. It’ll still keep your attention all the way through either way though.
The movie starts with FBI Agents Anthony and Frank trying to defuse a pretty intense terrorist situation with a bunch of people being stuck in a bus that has bombers in it. Anthony is able to at least get the kids out but everyone else dies. The most worrisome thing here is that there are apparently several other terrorist cells already active in Brooklyn so more of these disasters are going to happen. The tough part is how to pre-emptively stop these attacks before people end up dying. If you go too hard then you’re inevitably going to be hurting innocent people and if you stay reactive then innocent people are going to die in the explosions. So it’s a tough situation.
The film does a good job of showing that there are no easy solutions in a situation like this. You’ve got millions of people within the state and they are looking for less than 20 terrorists. Of course that’s just the number that they know but either way it is a very small percentage which does not work in their favor. People are not going to be happy with any option. Ultimately the president decides to call in the army once all other options fail and that brings General William to the forefront.
This guy is a pretty interesting character and I liked him. The whole film he is begging the president not to call him in because if that happens then they are going to be in a lot of trouble. As he says the army is like a blunt object. They will neutralize the threat but there will be a whole lot of collateral damage and it won’t be quiet or subtle. On the other hand the quiet ways with the FBI and CIA have not yielded any true results yet to the president pulls him in.
Thing is, William is very serious about succeeding even if it means that he does commit a lot of destruction. He treats Brooklyn as he would any warzone in which case he is kidnapping people and also resorting to torture right away. This guy is not holding back at all. As the film goes on he starts to look more and more unhinged but what adds to his character is the fact that he initially didn’t want to be called in. It was a real last resort so he knew that he would lose control. There’s a whole lot you could say about a character like this.
Meanwhile Anthony is doing his best here but it sure is tough. He’s trying to solve this case by staying within the rules but that means he has no time to make any true progress. He also has to deal with the CIA agent Elise who is not making this any easier by keeping a whole lot of secrets. She is working with a guy named Samir who is a big criminal himself but she figures he can lead them to the terrorists. Anthony is not comfortable with this plan at all but compromises because he has no real alternatives.
Anthony takes a lot of risks and is always in the front lines so you can definitely appreciate him here. He’s a really good main character. His partner Frank also gets a big role but tends to lose his cool a little too quickly. There’s the scene where he punches a suspect and has to be calmed down and then he really loses it when the army takes his son. It definitely is rough to be treated just like the rest of the suspects after all his years of faithful service. You can understand why all suspects have to be brought in even ones with government ties. It’s the only logical approach but because the army is committing a lot of human rights violations and treating people badly it’s just shining even more of a light on that.
I didn’t really care for Elise though. Sure as a CIA member she has to keep some secrets but I think she keeps too many of them and this ultimately comes at the expense of the other heroes at times. The whole way she handles Samir was not good. I never liked the trope of basically trying to seduce the enemy, it’s too heavy a price to move forward. Then you’d also have to acknowledge that the one you’re trying to manipulate could just be enjoying the benefits while not actually being manipulated.
Having informants itself is a controversial move to be sure since you’re basically allowing criminals to run free in the hopes of getting others. Perhaps it is necessary sometimes but choosing those moments and not crossing the line is not an easy task at all. I just thought her judgment was really off here the whole time. Meanwhile Samir is never portrayed as a good guy himself. He commits crimes and just keeps on moving. He has a lot of protection so he’s never really had to worry a whole lot and it’s sort of annoying to see him be to brazen the whole time.
While I think the heroes could have handled this all a lot better, it’s also easy to backseat coach after it’s all over. Ultimately the film delivers on having a lot of political intrigue the whole time and the characters debating what the right thing to do is. William goes a bit far by the end but it also leads to a really tense scene at the climax that is one of the highlight moments of the film.
Overall, The Siege is a film you won’t soon forget. They really did a good job of exploring what it could be like to have active terrorist cells in the city with the government trying to deal with it. It would certainly be a terrifying ordeal and deciding how far to go would be a big point of discussion. Especially with online discourse you know there would be a million opinions right away. I don’t see things ever escalating in quite the way they did in this film like calling out the army and shutting down a whole borough but at the same time you never really know.