And tonight's flic ... Enemy of the State, a 1998 movie starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman. I picked it up the other day for $7.99 (Canadian dollars, eh). The link above is to reviews of the movie at Rotten Tomatoes (an excellent site if you're not familiar with it). On the Tomatometer it scores a 70%, which would suggest that it's a reasonably good movie. Which it is. But given the recent revelations about NSA monitoring of telecommunications within the USA and internationally, the Tomatometer needs a little recalibration ... say an additional 20%? So rent this movie!
Don't worry, it's lots of fun. You gotta love Will Smith, and Gene Hackman is--as usual--top notch. John Voight plays the baddie with verve. And several other well-known actors (like Jack Black and Gabriel Byrne) have minor parts. It's a Jerry Bruckheimer co-production, so there are some wicked action sequences. Woo-eee!
Stealing from the box, it's "a dynamite thriller" (Rolling Stone), but it's also a techno-geek-fest (GPS tracking, 23 GHz transmitters, and directional mics), and a buddy movie (there's good chemistry between Smith and Hackman) with a dash of light humour skillfully blended into the mix. There's lots of other good stuff, but I'm sure that's been well covered in the reviews you can read via Rotten Tomatoes.
Although the action never let up, the plot was predictable enough that I had time to ponder the technology. Some of it was pure Hollywood fantasy. A fuzzy security camera image from a bad angle? No problem: just sharpen it, and then (!) do a 3D rotation to get a better view. On the other hand, the wiretapping and traces seemed quite believable. Other times, I just wasn't sure. Can they really take those fancy satellite videos on the fly?
Of course the intellectual meat of the movie is the concern that we're becoming a surveillance society, with security cameras wherever we look (and more importantly, where we don't), sophisticated electronic eavesdropping, and linked databases of personal information (like financial records and employment history) that Big Brother can access with a keystroke. Throw in a murderous conspiracy, and--voila!--an engaging movie experience.
But this movie was released in 1998, and the conspiracy had to come from a rogue NSA bigwig hungry for power. Watching the movie today, we have a somewhat different perspective. If you can get past the "high-powered suspense thriller where nonstop action meets cutting-edge technology!" (I'm stealing from the box again), the movie seems remarkably prescient.
If I can quote from box one more time, the byline on the front says "It's not paranoia if they're really after you." Well, they're really after you.
Update 12Feb2006: This is just too weird!