Enemy of the State (film)

Enemy of the State is a 1998 American political action thriller film directed by Tony Scott, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and written by David Marconi. The film stars Will Smith and Gene Hackman and features an ensemble supporting cast consisting of Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Gabriel Byrne, Dan Butler, Loren Dean, Jack Black, Jake Busey, Barry Pepper, and Regina King. 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
Enemy of the State (film) poster art.jpg
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 garnered positive reviews from film critics and audiences, with many praising the writing and direction as well as the chemistry between Smith and Hackman.


NSA official Thomas Brian Reynolds meets with Congressman Phil Hammersley to discuss a new piece of counterterrorism legislation that dramatically expands the surveillance powers of intelligence agencies over individuals and groups. Hammersley remains committed to blocking its passage, wanting to protect U.S. citizens' privacy. Reynolds, wanting the bill passed to obtain a long-delayed promotion, has Hammersley murdered, making it appear he suffered a heart attack. Meanwhile, labor lawyer Robert Clayton Dean is involved in a case implicating mobster Paulie Pintero. Dean meets with his ex-girlfriend, Rachel Banks; Rachel works for "Brill," who Dean sometimes uses for undercover surveillance but has never met in person. She delivers a tape incriminating Pintero for labor racketeering, which Dean threatens him with.

As police investigate Hammersley's murder scene, Reynolds and his team notice a biologist swapping out a tape from a remote wildlife camera stationed across the lake. They identify the biologist 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.

Reynolds' team identify Dean and visit him disguised as cops. When Dean refuses to let them search his belongings, they later plant surveillance devices in his house and on his clothes. They also dissiminate false evidence that Dean is secretly on Pintero's payroll, laundering money and having an affair with Rachel. The subterfuge destroys Dean's life: he is fired from his law firm, his bank accounts are frozen, 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.

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. Brill reveals that his real name is 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 and then demand an internal investigation. 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 and to get Reynolds to incriminate 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 quickly escalates into a deadly close-quarters firefight when a gangster shoots an NSA agent in the back; Pintero, his men, Reynolds, and the 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, and the conspiracy is exposed.

Congress abandons the bill to avoid a national scandal, covering up the NSA's involvement to preserve the agency's reputation. 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 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 officeEdit

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 responseEdit

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 72% based on 86 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]

Possible television seriesEdit

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 lifeEdit

An episode of PBS' 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 alsoEdit


  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/.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  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 2 January 2021.
  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.

External linksEdit