Enemy of the State (film)

Enemy of the State is a 1998 American political action thriller film directed by Tony Scott, written by David Marconi, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman with an ensemble supporting cast consisting of Jon Voight, Regina King, Loren Dean, Jake Busey, Barry Pepper and Gabriel Byrne. The film tells the story of a group of corrupt National Security Agency (NSA) agents conspiring to kill a congressman and the cover-up that ensues after a tape of the murder ends up in the possession of an unsuspecting lawyer.

Enemy of the State
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTony Scott
Written byDavid Marconi
Produced byJerry Bruckheimer
CinematographyDan Mindel
Edited byChris Lebenzon
Music by
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • November 20, 1998 (1998-11-20)
Running time
132 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$90 million[1]
Box office$250.8 million[1]

Enemy of the State was released on November 20, 1998, by Buena Vista Pictures through its Touchstone Pictures label. The film grossed $250.8 million worldwide, and received generally positive reviews from film critics, with many praising the writing and direction as well as the chemistry between Smith and Hackman.



Senior NSA Assistant Director Thomas Reynolds meets in a public park with Congressman Phil Hammersley to discuss a new piece of counterterrorism legislation that dramatically expands the surveillance powers of American intelligence agencies over individuals and groups. Hammersley remains committed to blocking its passage, arguing that the potential benefits of the bill aren't worth sacrificing the privacy rights of ordinary citizens. Reynolds, wanting the bill passed to obtain a long-delayed promotion, has a team of agents loyal to him murder Hammersley and stage his death as a car accident following a heart attack.

Labor lawyer Robert Clayton Dean is working with his firm on a case involving restaurant owner and mob boss Paulie Pintero. Dean meets with his ex-girlfriend, Rachel Banks; Rachel works for "Brill", a man Dean occasionally hires to conduct surveillance operations but has never met in person. She delivers a tape incriminating Pintero for labor racketeering, which Dean threatens him with to ensure the mobster agrees to a favorable settlement.

Reynolds and his team spot a biologist swapping out a tape from a remote wildlife camera stationed across the lake from the murder scene. They identify him as Daniel Zavitz. When Zavitz views footage of the murder, he immediately contacts a journalist to publicize the tape. Reynolds' team intercepts the call and rush to Zavitz's apartment. Zavitz transfers the video to a disc and hides it in an NEC TurboExpress game console before fleeing. He bumps into Dean, his old college friend. Panicked, Zavitz slips the disc into Dean's shopping bag without his knowledge. He runs into the path of an oncoming fire truck and is killed instantly, while Reynolds has Zavitz's journalist contact murdered.

After Reynolds' team identify Dean and figure Zavitz slipped him the footage disc, they visit him disguised as cops. When Dean refuses to let them search his belongings without a warrant, the agents erroneously believe that he is knowingly withholding the disc. They break in Dean's house while he and his family are out and plant bugs on his clothes and personal effects. They also disseminate false evidence that Dean is laundering money through his firm for Pintero and having an affair with Rachel. The subterfuge destroys Dean's life: he is fired from his law firm, his bank accounts are frozen pending a federal investigation, and his wife, Carla, throws him out. Dean asks Rachel to contact Brill for help. Reynolds intercepts the call and sends one of his men to impersonate Brill. The real Brill rescues Dean and warns him that the NSA is responsible for ruining his life. After Dean manages to evade the team, he is horrified to find Rachel shot dead in her home to silence her and him framed for the murder.

Dean finds the disc and shows it to Brill, who identifies Reynolds. The NSA agents raid Brill's hideout; Brill and Dean escape but the disc is destroyed in a car fire. Brill reveals that he is really Edward Lyle, a former NSA communications expert stationed in Iran during the Iranian Revolution. His partner, Rachel's father, was killed, but Lyle escaped and has been working covertly ever since, employing Rachel as a courier to watch over her. Lyle urges Dean to start a new life, but he insists on clearing his name. Dean and Lyle trail Congressman Sam Albert, a key supporter of the bill, and record a videotape of him with his mistress. Dean and Lyle hide an NSA listening device in Albert's hotel room, knowing that he will find it. Lyle then hacks into Reynolds' personal bank account and deposits large sums of money to make it look like he's being paid to blackmail Albert.

A meeting is arranged with Reynolds to exchange the video so Reynolds can be tricked into incriminating himself. Reynolds' men instead ambush the meeting and hold Lyle and Dean at gunpoint, demanding the tape. Dean, anticipating this, lies and says that the evidence is hidden at Pintero's restaurant, which is currently under FBI surveillance. He then tricks Pintero and Reynolds into believing that the other man has "the tape". The encounter immediately escalates into a deadly close-quarters firefight when a gangster shoots an NSA agent in the back; Pintero, his men, Reynolds, and almost all of his agents are killed. During this ordeal, Lyle sends the FBI a live feed of the incident to trigger a raid on the restaurant before slipping out in disguise. Dean is rescued, the survivors are arrested, and the conspiracy is exposed.

Congress abandons the bill to avoid scandal, while the NSA executes a cover-up of Reynolds' actions. Dean is cleared of all charges and reconciles with Carla. Lyle sends Dean a "farewell" message via his TV, partially showing himself relaxing on a tropical island with his cat.





The story is set in both Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and most of the filming was done in Baltimore. Location shooting began on a ferry in Fell's Point. In mid-January, the company moved to Los Angeles to complete production in April 1998.[2] David Marconi spent over 2 1/2 years developing his original script at Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films under the direction of Lucas Foster, their development executive at the time. Oliver Stone expressed early interest in directing Marconi's script, but ultimately Jerry Bruckheimer went with Tony Scott who he had a long standing relationship with because of their previous collaborations.[3] The writers Aaron Sorkin, Henry Bean and Tony Gilroy each performed an uncredited rewrite of the script.[4]

Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise were considered for the part that went to Will Smith, who took the role largely because he wanted to work with Hackman, and had previously enjoyed working with the producer Jerry Bruckheimer on Bad Boys. George Clooney was also considered for a role in the film. Sean Connery was considered for the role that went to Hackman. The film is notable for having cast several soon-to-be stars in smaller supporting roles, which casting director Victoria Thomas credited to people's interest in working with Gene Hackman.[5]

The film's crew included a technical surveillance counter-measures consultant who also had a minor role as a spy shop merchant. Hackman had previously acted in a similar thriller about spying and surveillance, The Conversation (1974). The photo in Edward Lyle's NSA file is of Hackman in The Conversation.[6]



Box office


Enemy of the State grossed $111.5 million in the United States and $139.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $250.8 million, against a production budget of $90 million.[1]

The film opened at #2, behind The Rugrats Movie, grossing $20 million over its first weekend at 2,393 theaters, averaging $8,374 per venue.[7] It made $18.1 million in its second weekend and $9.7 million in its third, finishing third place both times.[1]

Critical response


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 70% based on 84 reviews, with an average rating of 6.44/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "An entertaining, topical thriller that finds director Tony Scott on solid form and Will Smith confirming his action headliner status."[8] Metacritic assigned the film a normalized score of 67 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of A− on an A+ to F scale.[10]

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times expressed enjoyment in the movie, noting how its "pizazz [overcame] occasional lapses in moment-to-moment plausibility".[11] Janet Maslin of The New York Times approved of the film's action-packed sequences, but cited how it was similar in manner to the rest of the members of "Simpson's and Bruckheimer's school of empty but sensation-packed filming.[12] In a combination of the two's views, Edvins Beitiks of the San Francisco Examiner praised many of the movie's development aspects, but criticized the overall concept that drove the film from the beginning—the efficiency of government intelligence—as unrealistic.[13] Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times felt "the climax edges perilously close to the ridiculous" but overall enjoyed the film, particularly Voight and Hackman's performances.[14]

Kim Newman considered Enemy of the State a "continuation of The Conversation", the 1974 psychological thriller that starred Hackman as a paranoid, isolated surveillance expert.[15][6]

Undeveloped television series


In October 2016, ABC announced it had green-lit a television series sequel to the film, with Bruckheimer to return as producer. The series would take place two decades after the original film, where "an elusive NSA spy is charged with leaking classified intelligence, an idealistic female attorney must partner with a hawkish FBI agent to stop a global conspiracy".[16] However, nothing ever came to fruition.

Real life


An episode of PBS's Nova titled "Spy Factory" reported that the film's portrayal of the NSA's capabilities was fiction: although the agency can intercept transmissions, connecting the dots is difficult.[17] However, in 2001, the then-NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, who was appointed to the position during the release of the film, told CNN's Kyra Phillips that "I made the judgment that we couldn't survive with the popular impression of this agency being formed by the last Will Smith movie."[18] James Risen wrote in his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration that Hayden "was appalled" by the film's depiction of the NSA, and sought to counter it with a PR campaign on behalf of the agency.[19]

Given the events of 9/11, the Patriot Act and Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA's PRISM surveillance program, the film has become noteworthy for being ahead of its time regarding issues of national security and privacy.[20]

In June 2013, the NSA's PRISM and Boundless Informant programs for domestic and international surveillance were uncovered by The Guardian and The Washington Post as the result of information provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. This information revealed capabilities such as collection of Internet browsing, e-mail and telephone data of not only many Americans, but citizens of other nations as well. The Guardian's John Patterson argued that Hollywood depictions of NSA surveillance, including Enemy of the State and Echelon Conspiracy, had "softened" up the American public to "the notion that our spending habits, our location, our every movement and conversation, are visible to others whose motives we cannot know".[21]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d "Enemy of the State box office". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 18 December 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
  2. ^ Greg Huxtable (May 2013). "ENEMY OF THE STATE - Production Notes". Cinema Review. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  3. ^ "Writing ENEMY OF THE STATE, a talk with David Marconi-1999". Scenario-vol-5-no-1-1999/page/118/mode/2up?view=theater/. 1999.
  4. ^ "Enemy of the State (1998)". Motion State Review. 28 November 2014. Archived from the original on 21 July 2019. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  5. ^ Willis, John (May 2000). Screen World Volume 50 (1999 ed.). p. 162. ISBN 1-55783-410-5.
  6. ^ a b "Looking back at Tony Scott's Enemy Of The State". Den of Geek. 30 May 2013. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  7. ^ Natale, Richard (23 November 1998). "Rugrats' Outruns 'Enemy'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
    - Welkos, Robert W. (24 November 1998). "Weekend Box Office: 'Rugrats' Has Kid Power". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
    - Gaul, Lou (24 February 2000). "Public 'Enemy' No. 1". The Beaver County Times. p. 62. Archived from the original on 18 May 2021. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  8. ^ "Enemy of the State Movie (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 26 November 2020. Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  9. ^ "Enemy of the State Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  10. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Enemy of the State" in the search box). CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 9 August 2019. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  11. ^ Turan, Kenneth (20 November 1998). "Enemy of the State: 'Enemy' Has a Little Secret: Let the (Nifty) Chase Begin". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  12. ^ Maslin, Janet (20 November 1998). "Enemy of the State: The Walls Have Ears, Eyes, and Cameras". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 21 May 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  13. ^ Beitiks, Edvins (20 November 1998). "High-octane "Enemy'". San Francisco Examiner. Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  14. ^ "Enemy of the State movie review (1998) | Roger Ebert".
  15. ^ Newman in Pramaggiore & Wallis, Film: a critical introduction Archived 21 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine, pg 283.
  16. ^ Lesley Goldberg (20 October 2013). "'Enemy of the State' TV Sequel Set at ABC". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 11 February 2021. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  17. ^ Bamford, James; C. Scott Willis (3 February 2009). "Spy Factory". NOVA. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation. Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  18. ^ "Inside the NSA: The Secret World of Electronic Spying". CNN. 25 March 2001. Archived from the original on 8 August 2012. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  19. ^ Zeke J Miller (7 June 2013). "Former NSA Chief Was Worried About "Enemy Of The State" Reputation". Time. Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  20. ^ "Looking back at Tony Scott's Enemy Of The State". Den Of Geek. 30 May 2013. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  21. ^ John Patterson (16 June 2013). "How Hollywood softened us up for NSA surveillance". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 September 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.