Before it was released in 1998, Edward Zwick’s political action thriller The Siege was protested by Muslims and others who felt that the film’s premise — about martial law being imposed in New York after a series of terror attacks by Islamic extremists — was incendiary and hurtful. (Remember, this was years before 9-11, but not long after the first World Trade Center bombing.) Most of those protesting hadn’t yet seen the film. Ironically, The Siege plays today like a dystopian warning of what the Donald Trumps of the world are promising us. Co-written by journalist Lawrence Wright (who would go on to write the 9-11 history The Looming Tower), Zwick’s film shows us how a couple of terrorist attacks result in a power-hungry general (played by Bruce Willis) quarantining Brooklyn and herding Muslim men into cages. Meanwhile, a heroic FBI agent (Denzel Washington), with the help of a CIA operative (Annette Bening), attempts both to find the terrorists and to thwart the emerging police state. It all seemed somewhat far-fetched and histrionic at the time. Now, thanks in part to the 2016 presidential election, our current reality seems to be one mutation away from turning into something out of this movie.
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