Elise Kraft/Sharon Bridger

Posted: June 24, 2008 in Counterterrorism, National Security, Spy Dames We Wish Were Real, Tradecraft
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Yowser, did Annette Benning rock in “The Siege” or what? I always liked her as an actress, she’s terribly ballsy in everything she does, but this move kicked some serious butt.

Benning plays Elise Kraft/Sharon Bridger, a government agent of unknown origin. She’s either CIA or NSA, we’re never quite sure because she’s excellent at playing everyone against the middle. What we do know is that she is a counterterrorism expert, grew up in Middle East, has assets all over the damn place, obviously is pretty good at interrogation, and is damn fine at pushing the FBI’s buttons. Her character highlights a terrifically important problem in the US Intelligence Community and that is the inability of certain agencies to share information.

Side note on the film: the original title was “Blowback” which I wish they would have kept because the plot aptly describes a possible consequence of a covert operation gone horribly wrong and coming back to haunt us on our own shores. Another interesting note on this film: after 9/11 it was the most rented film in America. Interesting that back in 1998, a screenwriter had the strategic imagination of a worst case scenario (see Red Team) and the film does a decent job, I think, of showing how foreign policy can come back and bite you on the ass.

Special bonus: while Annette Benning certainly has played her share of sex-pots (see “Bugsy” and the “The Grifters”), in this film she does a Plain Jane interpretation of the character that is all smarts and certainly keeps you guessing all the way to the tragic end. The key to this film is Elise/Sharon’s juggling act and keeping all the balls in the air. It’s done admirably. And I love that Elise/Sharon seem to get all the best lines:

“We’re the CIA, something always goes wrong.”

“I tend to be suspicious of all true believers. Present company included.”

and my favorite…

“It’s easy to tell the difference between right wrong. What’s hard is choosing the wrong that is more right.”

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