Film/Television Review: The Enemy Within (1994)


When it comes to the issue of pointless or stupid remakes most cinephiles are likely to point fingers at Hollywood’s big budget productions. But this phenomena can be seen even in the world of cable television, where lower budgets and less content limitations allow for more creative freedom. HBO provided one such example with The Enemy Within, 1994 political thriller directed by Jonathan Darby, which represents a remake of classic 1964 film Seven Days in May.

Like the previous film, The Enemy Within is based on the novel Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey and set in the very near future. US Congress has just voted huge increase in military budget, but the President Walter Kelly (played by Sam Waterston) refuses to sign it, preferring to have those resources directed towards domestic issues. That creates a very public argument with US Marine General R. Pendleton Lloyd (played by Jason Robards), chairman of Joint Chiefs who claims that the US military has been too weakened in post-Cold War years and that it can’t handle “problematic” countries in Middle East. All this appears of little concern of US Marine Lt. Colonel Macarthur “Mac” Casey (played by Forest Whitaker), an officer assigned to General Lloyd. He accidentally discovers some strange details about major military exercise that involves use of live ammo, chemical agents and movement of tens of thousands of troops into major US cities. He comes to conclusion that Lloyd is preparing a military coup against the President and decides to warn the White by contacting his old acquaintance, Foster’s chief of staff Betsy Corcoran (played by Dana Delany). President’s hands are, however, tied because he lacks evidence and some of his cabinet members and civilian officials might be involved in conspiracy. Casey will have very little time to find the evidence and try to stop the coup.

If there is a one thing interesting in The Enemy Within, it is the script by Darryl Ponicsan and Ronald Bass which uses 25th Amendment to US Constitution – adopted few years after the original film – which deals with President’s removal due to incapacity to carry official duties. This scenario was matter of frequent discussion during Trump’s presidency and it is quite certain that Trump’s supporters would see scenes in which members of cabinet and high officials plot against sitting President as disturbingly prophetic. But, apart from this curiosity, The Enemy Within represents complete waste of time, with almost every decision to make new film different from the old representing a serious mistake. The most obvious was post-Cold War setting and the idea that a mere argument over budget would spark unprecedented military action against world’s most powerful democracy, unlike serious dilemmas about nuclear disarmament and national security during Cold War which were the basis for Seven Days in May. Another terrible decision was to cast elderly and tired Jason Robards in the role that charismatic and passionate Burt Lancaster played in the original film. The Enemy Within, on the other hand, tries to spice up the plot with couple of scenes featuring assassination, chases and shoot outs, but they are poorly directed and make the film look cheaper than it actually is. Despite very short running time of 82 minutes, the film also features completely unnecessary and distracting subplot involving protagonist and his troublesome 13-year old son, as well as Russian spies that help the protagonist, a detail completely incomprehensible in today’s climate. The ending looks like unconvincing deus ex machina introduced when the scriptwriters apparently ran out of ideas. Forest Whitaker, who dutifully plays his poorly written character with best of his abilities, is single bright spot in this fiasco, but even his talent isn’t enough to save The Enemy Within to sink into well-deserved oblivion.

RATING: 2/10 (-)

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