Film Evaluation

GOVT 2302 – Film Project Guidelines


The major project for this course is to view one film that is of personal interest from the list provided below. The films have been screened by the instructor and have been found to be of considerable value as it pertains to the content of a GOVT 2302 course. The final work product is to be a high quality report using the specific guidelines provided for the project.

The films listed can be obtained at your local video store or in some cases at your local library. I suggest that you carefully examine the requirements for this activity prior to selecting a film. Then as you watch the film, create a detailed set of notes that you can refer to as you prepare your paper. Again, examine your notes and carefully consider the project guidelines. Spend some time developing you ideas before typing up a report. In general, plan to spend about 10 hours on this project. That includes the time needed to view the film (possibly twice), write the report and edit the final copy.








Enemy Of The State. Dir. Tony Scott. Prod. Jerry Brukeimer. Perf. Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight.1998. DVD. Touchstone Pictures, 2006.














Film Project

E. Warren

GOVT 2301-2004

Fall 2009

Prof. Din









When Robert Clayton Dean, a successful labor lawyer, unknowingly receives important evidence in the politically motivated murder of a congressman, he becomes an increasing threat to corrupt politician, Thomas Reynolds, plan to establish a new government run surveillance system. Once Dean acquires video footage showing Reynolds and his accomplices killing Chairman Phil, a secretive and aggressive sector of the National Security Agency lead by Reynolds begins to intrude in Dean’s life and invade his privacy in order to discredit him and get back the video.

Reynolds and his team of skilled operatives use highly advanced government technology, normally used for serious national security threats such as terrorism, to mercilessly pursue Dean, a private citizen. Doing some investigative work of his own, Dean finally realizes that he has incriminating evidence that put him in this life or death situation. Dean is forced to fight against

a seemingly all-powerful adversary with the help of a reluctant Brill, a former NSA agent who heavily distrusts the government. With Brill’s expertise, they begin to use the NSA’s own tactics against them. Harnessing the powers of the “surveillance society”, Dean and Brill manage to keep one step ahead of the long reach of the unscrupulous NSA agents. Exploiting the government’s technology against them, the duo formulates a plan using blackmail, cunningness, and sheer guts to gather the evidence they need to topple the agency and exonerate themselves. Ultimately the plan backfires and they have to rely on luck and wits to try and save their lives.

Together, Dean and Brill, the determined fugitives, are successful in bringing down the nefarious government entity that had deemed him an enemy of the state.





The movie Enemy of the State embodies much of the course material that was discussed throughout this semester. This movie touches on everything from the type and size of government, to the importance of civil liberties, and also the influence of the media in politics.

One of the main ideas of the movie is an over sized, unchecked, and out of control government. This negative concept of a big and corrupt government dates back to the founding

of the nation’s democracy. The movie plays with the idea that the government can be overbearing and intrusive, especially when it comes to the governments own self interests.  The U.S. government in Enemy O f The State in some ways represents tyranny.


In the beginning of the movie Congressman Phil is killed because he didn’t agree with Reynolds on a piece of legislation that would allow the NSA to establish a highly advanced surveillance system. When Reynolds is trying to persuade Phil to let his people vote for the bill, Phil says “This bill is not the first step to the surveillance society. It is the surveillance society” (Enemy Of The State).  While Reynolds claims the bill is for National Security reasons, Phil’s view is that the surveillance bill would lead to a gross invasion of privacy by the government.               Reynolds uses intimidation, implies blackmail, and eventually results to murder to ensure that his bill is passed. This scene represents the ultimate oppression of opinion and right to life by a high ranking government official. Reynolds and his men from the NSA symbolize the government in general. They are tyrants in that they are an outside agency or force who impose a rigorous condition on the people they see as a threat (“Tyranny”. Marriam-Websters Dictionary).       Protecting the people from tyrannical acts imposed by the government is the basis for the creation of federalism and the concept of checks and balances. The movie portrays what could happen if checks and balances aren’t fully enforced in dealing with the government’s power over technology. Reynolds and his team are people who have no boundaries.  It appears that he is above suspicion and the law. He holds such a high position in the National Security Agency that if he’s clever enough, he doesn’t have to answer to any one. Therefore he is able to manipulate the system and exercise ultimate authority. In the scene where Reynolds is told that someone has the tape of the Congressman’s murder he calls for the mobilization of resources to retrieve the evidence. In order to do this he has to secretly organize forces from different sectors of the NSA and orders his team to falsify FBI approval. Through the entire film Reynolds’ use of manpower and equipment remains unchecked. It’s not until the end of the movie, thanks to Brill’s espionage, that a system of checks and balances start to take affect and other uncorrupt NSA officials begin to ask questions and look into the authorization of certain technology. The concept of checks and balances comes around full circle towards the end of the movie when Dean ingeniously tricks Reynolds and his team to conduct business in a mobster’s headquarters that is being watched by the FBI. After an intense and fatal shoot out between Reynolds and the mobsters, the men on Reynolds team who survived are apprehended and questioned by the FBI.  The last few scenes of the movie show that each national security branch has the power and responsibility to limit the power of the others. In much the same way that checks and balances works for America’s entire federalist government system.


The media plays a subtle role In Enemy of the State as well. Before Congressman Phil was murdered he refers to what the Washington Post had said about the Telecommunications Security and Privacy Act. It’s possible that the news papers and other media outlets influenced the Congressman and his constituent’s view of the bill. From that scene on the movie gives hints as to how the media handles its role as the nations “watch dog”. The whole conflict of the movie starts when the incriminating tape falls into the hands of a young man named Zavits who is determined to get the tape to the media by giving it to his publisher friend. Reynolds wouldn’t have had his team of NSA operatives go after Zavits if the media wasn’t a threat to his success. The fact that one the main objectives for the antagonist was to destroy the tape, keep it from reaching the media, shows how big of an impact the media has on politics and on the American public.


In the final scene of the movie, the media also summed up the main premise of the movie. Larry King asks a critical question to Congressman Sam Albert, a distant supporter of the bill in the movie. He asks “…how do we draw the line between protection of national security, obviously the governments need to obtain intelligence data, and the protection of civil liberties, particularly the sanctity of my home?”. Enemy Of  The State showed how easily government can infringe on a persons civil liberties, particularly when dealing with the right to privacy. Neither the writers or directors had extensive knowledge on the movie’s subject matter, so for the making of the film the production team called on men like Steve Uhrig, Marty Kaiser, and Harry Humphries to be tech advisors and make adjustments to the script if need be. These men had experience and expertise in surveillance, government technology, and how the security sector of the government operates. In the interviews about how the movie was made, all three advisors generally agreed that the government has the capabilities to do nearly everything that was portrayed in the movie. With technology continually becoming more advanced and things like terrorism rising as a threat to the U.S., the team behind Enemy of the State had plenty of evidence and facts to use as a basis for their story.


Movies can sometimes be a forerunner of things to come.  Though Enemy Of The State was made in 1998, some have compared the invasion of privacy depicted in the movie to post 9/11 America. With the enactment of the Patriot Act in 2001, many have voiced concern over the direction the U.S. government is headed when it comes to keeping the country safe while maintaining the sanctity of the Fourth amendment. However, government run domestic surveillance is nothing new. When Brill takes Dean to his secret hide out Brill tells dean that the government has been in bed with the telecommunications industry since the 40’s. This statement is not entirely untrue. Domestic Surveillance can be traced all the way back to the Civil War under Abraham Lincoln with use of a system called Wig Wag, a form of optical telegraphy. Some consider Wig Wag to be the beginnings of today’s electronic networking and telecommunications systems (Encyclopedia of American Military History). Electronic surveillance has been a controversial issue since the early 20th century. In 1928 the Supreme Court Case of Olmstead v. United States held that a warrant was not needed for telephone interception (Encyclopedia of the American Presidency). Though the issue of privacy has been debated numerous times in court since 1928, the way it has been interpreted and applied has changed depending on the circumstances of the time. During the Prohibition Era, the FBI used wiretapping to track down liquor runners and President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered electronic surveillance without warrants for the defense of the nation during World War II. Presidents in the second half of the century greatly increased the use of domestic surveillance during the Cold War and the Vietnam War during the Cultural Revolution when people could be spied on for simply having a point of view deemed radical by the government (History News Network). Will Smith said in the behind the scenes footage of the DVD, “What’s really amazing is that you have to imagine that anything you see in a movie is probably already10 to15 years behind what they actually have.” Considering the history of the U.S. Government when dealing with issue of privacy, Smith’s assertion may not be all that far fetched.

One could argue however, that though the movie is generally objective on the subject of national security and privacy it still does play into conspiracy theories to a certain extent. Enemy of the State exploits the cultural bias that Americans have against the government. The idea that “Big Brother” is always watching is something that many U.S. citizens allude to. This is shown in the character of Dean’s wife Carla. Some would consider her the typical American skeptical of the government. Even her husband brushes off her comments about the government invading privacy and eroding the Fourth Amendment. Toward the end of the movie when she watches news reporters question congressman Sam Albert about the bill on TV, The congressman tells the reporters that they have to monitor the people who are monitoring the nation’s enemies. Carla responds by asking “who’s going to monitor the monitors of the monitors”. The movie also depicts cultural bias in the character of Reynolds. Reynolds says to Congressman Phil “this is the richest most powerful nation on earth, therefore the most hated. And you and I know what the average citizen does not: that we are at war 24 hours of everyday.” Reynolds embodies the idea of a big corrupt government that oversteps its boundaries for it’s own self interests and because it feels it knows what’s best for it’s citizens.


Some aspects in the movie didn’t play into conspiracy theory at all and are very realistic, especially when referring to politics. Throughout the movie Reynolds is shown using not only the persuasion of power but also the power of persuasion to get the surveillance bill passed. At one point Reynolds is talking on the phone and needs to know how many votes are guaranteed to vote for the bill. In the simplest terms this shows how much promotion and conversion is needed to get an agreement on a bill. The back and fourth on policy making decision can be seen being played out in Washington on a daily basis. Most recently the health care bill is a prime example of this. The slow movement of American politics is also portrayed in the conflict between the Pintero mobsters and the FBI. The FBI was waiting outside of Pintero’s restaurant for so long that the mobsters were well aware of their hideout across the street and mocked them whenever they noticed the FBI was watching. One can only assume that it took the FBI so long to make a move on Pintero’s operation because of all the regulation and procedures needed to be followed in order to successfully and correctly apprehend him. It seems that with all the complexities and secrecy that goes on with the federal government, it can make it predictably slow as well.















Enemy of the state is a compelling movie. It evokes a deeper understanding of the

controversy surrounding the issue of privacy and the government’s responsibility to ensure national security. The movie is eerily similar to the events that are occurring in the world today.

Society is becoming more dependent on technology and technology generally is a good thing.

However, the very thing people rely on the most can be used against them. Enemy Of The State shows what could happen when something as powerful as technology is used against something as fragile as civil liberties. Technology in the hands of a corrupt government or anyone with a criminal mindset can have devastating affects on individuals and society as a whole.















Works Cited


Best Jr., Richard A., and Jennifer K. Elsea, comps. “Satellite Surveillance: Domestic Issues.” CRS Report For Congress. Federation of American Scientist, 27 June 2008. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <>.


“electronic surveillance.” American History Online. Encyclopedia of the American Presidency., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <>.


“Enemy of the State.” The Internet Movie Database/ IMDb. An Company, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <>.


“Enemy Of The State Script ‑ Dialogue Transcript.” Script‑o‑rama. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <http://www.script‑o‑‑of‑the‑state‑script.html>.


Greenberg, David. “Civil Rights: Let ‘Em Wiretap!” Editorial. History News Network. N.p., 22 Oct. 2001. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <>.


Hafetz, Jonathan. “History’s Lesson about Domestic Surveillance.” Editorial. Brennan Center For Justice. New York University School Of Law, 5 May 2006. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <>.



“History Repeated: The Dangers of Domestic Spying by Federal Law Enforcement.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <>.



“History Repeated: The Dangers of Domestic Spying by Federal Law Enforcement .” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., 29 May 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <‑security/history‑repeated‑dangers‑domestic‑spying‑federal‑law‑enforcement>.


“The Making Of A Movie: Enemy Of The State.” SWS Security. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <>.


“The Surprisingly Stronger Case for the Legality of the NSA Surveillance Program: The FDR Precedent.” Georgetown Law. Georgetown University, 3 Mar. 2008. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <>.


“U.S. Army Signal Corps.” American History Online. Encyclopedia of American Military History, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <>.



“ WIRETAPPING.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <>.

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