racism in movies

The Siege

Year: 1998
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Written By: Lawrence Wright, Menno Meyjes, and Edward Zwick

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is an interesting film because it centers on terrorism in the pre-War on Terror world. The New York skyline is even topped by the Twin Towers in many shots. It’s interesting not only because of how the War on Terror actually unfolded but because the movie still serves as a warning for what could happen. In today’s climate there is just as much danger of this movie becoming a reality as there was during the decade after 9/11.

I have never liked the stereotyping of Muslims into terrorist because you can’t let radicals from any religion cast a net over the entire populous. Yes there are radical Muslims that want to do harm, but by the same token there are radicals in all religions that are all equally as dangerous. When you let xenophobia and racism take the front stage you are going to have a lot of innocent people caught up in the middle. When the focus turns from the actual perpetrators to an entire demographic of people then it simply becomes a witch hunt and in this country we should know the dangers involved in such a thing.

Muslim does not mean terrorist, just as terrorist does not mean Muslim. When people lose sight of that difference we are in danger of seeing what happened in this movie become real life. During the War on Terror the U.S. did detain plenty of terror suspects but they never went as far as to set up camps in the middle of the city and start locking up every person that fit their demographic. With the way the current popular presidential candidate talks we may still have to fear this movie turning into reality.

I hate the current talk about both immigration and Islam because it is being fueled by a “political” leader. I live in the south where so many rednecks are being egged on and amped up in their natural racist mentality. Not all people around here are like that but even the quiet racists are starting to feel comfortable voicing their opinions when out of ear shot of  specific people. It bothers me as a human being because what used to be nothing more than a joke with these people has turned into hopeful longing. As if it is even appropriate, or even practical, to shut down immigration and try to block Muslims from entering the country. These ideas set us back as a country and civilization to such an unfortunate degree. The U.S. is a nation made up of immigrants from all over the world, and not just the white ones. People need to be reminded of that and not exasperated to thinking we should build walls or bar entry to anybody over religious alignment.

This movie shows us a perfect example of the innocent victim that can get caught up in the middle of this scenario. Tony Shalhoub plays the part of an FBI Agent of Arabic descent whose son is locked up after martial law is declared in New York. It doesn’t matter that he is a federal agent, it doesn’t matter that he and his family are US citizens, and it doesn’t matter if he or his family actually did anything wrong. His son fit the demographic so he was caged like an animal in the camps set up by the military. There are people just like Shalhoub’s character all over this country, but there will be no way to differentiate once profiling takes the center stage. When Brown equals bad it doesn’t matter who anybody is because they are nothing more than a suspect at that point.

While this movie has really interesting content matter I don’t think it translated into a really great or memorable film. Denzel Washington does his best but I have never been sold on the guy and this movie is no different. I think Bruce Willis in his smaller part actually brought more to the film, as did Shalhoub. I don’t really care for Annette Bening’s character cause she is just too all over the place and sleeping with the enemy to boot.

This movie may not really be worth your time if you are looking for something entertaining but the lesson that it bears makes it worth it. It’s a lesson that only grows more important as time goes on. We can never go forward as a nation and civilization by taking steps backwards. Subjugating people is something we should have learned from in the past and movies like this can serve as a reminder that it’s a really bad idea. For that reason alone I think this movie is worth your time and that is why I own it.

NEXT MOVIE: Silence of the Lambs (1991)

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

School Ties

Year: 1992
Directed By: Robert Mandel
Written By: Dick Wolf and Darryl Ponicsan

 

RYAN’S REVIEW

It seems like the beginning of this “S” section is just flat out doomed when I’m following Schindler’s List with this film. How ironic that together these two films sit on the shelf. One being all out about the Holocaust and the other being about the racism behind it that never truly died.

This is not the greatest movie but it taught me an invaluable lesson when I was a kid. It taught me something about the nature of racism. How blind and unreasonable it can all be. In this movie all these guys are buddy buddy until they find out that all along Brendan Fraser is a Jew. The fact that they were friends before hand proves they couldn’t tell a true difference between him and themselves. When they learn his heritage he is suddenly ostracized for no other reason than the religion he serves. Nothing in particular changed about the person but all of his friends suddenly found reasons to dislike him simply because he was a Jew.

When I saw this movie as a kid it marked a lesson for me because I could see how foolish the racist feelings of these boys really were. Until they found out he was a Jew he was practically the most popular among them. How swiftly and quickly their perceptions changed based on a ridiculous notion that he was suddenly different just amazed me. I don’t doubt the truth to it and believe that these very type of situations happened countless times throughout history. The movie itself is actually based on personal experiences by the writer Dick Wolf.

I don’t understand racism in general, the type of hate that poisons a man’s heart to that point. For me it shouldn’t matter what a person’s ethnicity is when you know the person and like them. All these guys we see in this movie rally around Brenden Fraser up till that secret changes everything. They knew the person, but hardened their hearts when they learned something they could have never figured out any other way besides being told. When you know a person for who they are, it shouldn’t matter what the color of their skin is, the God they pray to, or their sexual preference for that matter.

When I watch a movie like this I relate to the main character as he struggles with this change of heart from his friends. When he is suddenly all alone for no reason and treated differently it is something I can see, and I understand his plight. I don’t know how any racist person can watch a movie like this and not take something away from it. Movies like Crash, Mississippi BurningSchindler’s List, Monster’s Balland many others have the power to teach us something but despite how popular these movies are the message just never gets through to some people. It’s a sad and unfortunate thing that I feel is getting worse as opposed to better as time carries on.

As to this movie it’s not really anything special. It’s an interesting opportunity to look back at younger versions of actors like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris O’Donnell, and Brendan Fraser. At the time Fraser looked to be on his way to being big time leading man material but his career hit a huge roadblock years back and he has seemingly never recovered from it. When he became that silly guy everything went wrong for him because he was capable of more. He wasn’t bad in this movie but I don’t think he was very exceptional either. It’s funny to look back in hindsight when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have reached the heights Fraser will simply never see.

I think it totally sucks to have to sit down to this movie after avoiding Schindler’s List. This movie in no way compares to that one but it still centers on racism and that’s an ugly topic I never care to sit down with. I think this movie is worth your time and everyone should see it simply for the hope that it teaches them something as it taught me. Racism is an ugly thing, and the only way we can ever rise above it is by looking within ourselves and deciding to be better.

NEXT MOVIE: Secondhand Lions (2003)