Film Analysis: Enemy Of The State Directed By Tony Scott

2118 words - 8 pages

In the modern day era, we find in society a ubiquitous usage of technology that seems to be never ending and forever growing. Included with this notion, the broad subject of surveillance is of course included. Contemporary surveillance, or more specifically technological surveillance, has been described as ambiguous; meaning that it is often misunderstood or open to different interpretations. The representation of surveillance within popular culture has played an impacting role on how we as a society perceive it and this raises certain questions that may reflect back on to society. The 1998 film Enemy Of The State directed by Tony Scott, Starring Will Smith, Gene Hackman and Jon Voight is considered to be a ‘spy-thriller’ blockbuster. Its central themes explore a range of surveillance techniques and equipment and also provides some insights, no matter how realistic or unrealistic they may be, into the real life security organisation; The National Security Agency (NSA). Using this film as an example and analysing how these themes are represented will hopefully allow us to key these ideas back to modern surveillance theories and practices.
The films central narrative follows the protagonist, city lawyer; Robert Clayton Dean (Smith) who, after a series of accidental events, finds himself in possession of an incriminating video tape of Thomas Bryan Reynolds (Voight) who is a high ranking (yet slightly rogue) official within the NSA. The video features Reynolds killing a Congressman who refused to support a new legislation that would give the NSA the power to drastically enhance its surveillance capabilities, thus boosting Reynolds career and power. Once they realise that Dean has possession of the tape, the NSA then sets up almost every unobtrusive surveillance measure possible. The types of surveillance portrayed in Enemy Of The State is vast in range, including video surveillance, phone tapping, tracking and sound devices, satellite surveillance, background checks. They monitor the movements of Dean and his wife, who they talk to, even the activities of their bank accounts. The surveillance methods that the NSA uses complement one another creating a detailed picture of Dean’s life, after which they basically ruin it without giving Dean access to any of the rights he is entitled to as a citizen of the USA. They could have arrested him or killed him ending his life altogether, but both of these approaches would create too much attention for the rogue villains to explain, and risk exposing their original crime of killing the congressman. In the words of Phillip Agre they go about destroying Deans “entire identity by conducting vast research into his vulnerabilities, publicizing fabricated criminal evidence, and leading his wife to believe that he has recommenced an old affair.” (3). It could be said that the overall surveillance used in this film is a contemporary portrayal of the theory known as the ‘panopticon’.
The notion of the panopticon was...

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