Tony Scott’s paranoia thriller Enemy of the State follows Will Smith as a successful labor lawyer whose life is thrown into chaos when a chance encounter with a college friend lands him in the middle of an NSA coverup. It takes all of his wits and the expertise of an ex-NSA analyst to escape from the clutches of an agency that believes that there is no such thing as privacy–but that will kill to protect its own.
Enemy of the State both intentionally emphasizes the danger of rampant government surveillance and serves as a warning to modern audiences–if the hilariously dated surveillance technology found in the movie is what 1998 viewers were afraid of, then, 15 years later, perhaps we should start asking “Who’s watching the watchers?”
One way I’ll be exploring this movie’s take on surveillance will be to analyze the film techniques used frequently in the film. The use of high-angle shots and dehumanizing, robotic takes from satellite footage help to portray the NSA operatives as alien and unsympathetic.
Another topic I want to talk about is the plot devices used in Enemy of the State. Many lapses in NSA technology allow for quick escapes by the heroes. Many of the limitations on NSA technology portrayed in the film are improved or eliminated in today’s technology, allowing for a greater breadth of surveillance by the government.
A subject I’m keen to explore is the film’s portrayal of the members of the NSA. As an agency, The NSA seems to be almost omniscient, but the people involved are still subject to political maneuvering and personal attacks. The NSA in the film use their power for unethical purposes, but the agency itself is shown to be nothing more than the people that make it up–the people are the bad guys, not the agency.