Enemy of the State - rated - Tepid

"Subtle" and "elegant" are the two words which come to mind when I think of Francis Ford Coppola's film The Conversation. However, they are not the words which most readily spring to mind when I consider Tony Scott's An Enemy of the State . "Loud", yes, "fast-paced," yes, "big and brash" , yes. But subtlety and elegance are in short supply.

Scott himself has invited this comparison by casting Gene Hackman as the security and surveillance expert "Brill", who was clearly written as a continuation of the "Harry Caul" character in The Conversation. Scott even shows an ID picture of Brill which is clearly a picture of Harry Caul taken from The Conversation.

Look, it's not a bad film. It has some good ideas - more than enough to keep you interested. It has Tony Scott's usual excellent visuals, including some truly inventive effects. But it also has Scott's usual weak female characters, and there's even a gratuitous scene in a lingerie shop with "lightly clad" models parading about.

Robert Dean (Will Smith)'s wife, Carla, is a civil liberties lawyer, but she seems to spend most of her time screaming, either at the TV or at her husband - that's when she's not weakly attempting to help her maid with the housework, or parading about in lingerie (don't all women?). And even the dog is a better judge of character than Carla. But then again, dogs always know best in films, don't they?

I did like Zavitz, the environmentalist character (Jason Lee, doing his best to steal the film from under the noses of Will Smith, Jon Voight et al). His character was pretty resourceful in a great chase scene - all the chase scenes are great, actually - but Lee was not around long enough for my liking.

The greatest diappointment, though, is in the sound design. The sound design in The Conversation was legendary stuff. But here, everything is just LOUD! I guess the idea that silence can sometimes be a powerful communication tool has just passed by everyone involved with this film. And there are other niggling problems with the sound design: for example, why would it be that satellites communicate to the sound of Morse code?

There are lots of slips like this, if you care to look for them. Still, I took comfort in the fact that although it apparently possible to zoom in on the contents of someone's shopping bag from miles up in space in a matter of seconds, and tap any call on any phone and then trace it in an instant, it still takes ages to pick a lock using a screwdriver, or to break down a door. In the end our sheer physical limitations will always let Big Brother down.