A movie released in 1998. It has the unusual distinction in that I thought it was a poor and unrealistic film when it was in theaters, but 3 years later I realized how thoroughly chilling it was.

Imagine the US government sent a SEAL team to Afghanistan and managed to secretly capture Osama bin Laden. He's safely hidden in US custody, but nobody knows that, its Top Secret.

Suddenly, New York has a problem on its hands. Suicide bombers. Busses full of people are blown up, and an anonymous terrorist group makes one demand: "Release Him." The implication is that it is the guy the US caught. But the government swears up and down they don't know where he is, nor do they have him.

Meanwhile, the bombings in the city intensify, and more details emerge. It turns out that the US government actually armed and trained some of these terrorists years ago to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but then withdrew support suddenly, allowing most of them to be slaughtered. As a result, the survivors have 2 things: knowledge in subversive warfare like bombmaking, and a hatred of the US.

Denzel Washington plays an FBI agent trying to figure this whole situation all out. He's there for the first bombing, and uncovers how this group got their motivation. It's going to be very hard to break up, since the terrorist cells are compartmentalized.

Suddenly, calamity strikes. The terrorists manage to take out basically the entire New York FBI branch with a car bomb. The city is put under martial law, with the US military in full control of the city and its resources. As a precaution, and to catch the terrorists, they arrest every Arab and Muslim male in New York City within a certain age range, and move them to a detention camp, not unlike what happened to the Japanese-Americans in World War II.

The actors were great for this movie. Denzel Washington is the FBI guy trying to do his job while upholding the Constitution and civil liberties, Bruce Willis is a cold monstrous pragmatist general. Tony Shaloub is the best, he plays an Arab-American FBI agent who's caught in this whole thing on two sides; loyalty to his country, and rage at having his family detained at an interment camp for being Arab. Annette Benning has a role, albeit not as great as her others.

I gotta say a few things. The plot, as unrealistic as it is in some places, suddenly has a new effect after September 11, 2001. I HATE saying that, since the idea is so overused, but this one I really believe to be the case. Many Arab-Americans and Muslims protested this movie, understandably, since it had Arabs and Muslims as the bad guys. At the same time, it did portray innocent legal Arabs who love this country and still got arrested and interred as a group. That really doesn't fix the problem, it's like saying Tonto was a moderating character in all the movies where the Indians were the bad guys. The film ostensibly wasn't about anti-Arab sentiment, it was more about paranoia and hasty-decision making. Still, I did think they had a very distorted image of what a terrorist would be, and what real Muslims do. Worse, the film connected Islamic activities, like reciting from the Holy Quran, the ritual washing before prayer, and the call to prayer, with terrorism. Also, once again, it had Palestinian bad guys, and even worse, it showed Arab immigrants, a college professor, and Arab-American auto mechanics in Brooklyn as terrorists. In 1998, Arabs and Muslims demonstrated in front of movie theaters showing the film, and after watching it, I wouldn't blame them.

Personally, after September 11, the thought of this film gave me chills. It was the kind of thing that people predicted would happen in a worst-case scenario. I had nightmares that I was arrested in NY just for being Muslim. Someone astutely pointed out that one of the bad guys in this movie, Bruce Willis, does exactly what Ariel Sharon has done recently in the West Bank; seal off the neighborhood, arrest all males in a specific age range, and put them in temporary concentration camps.

A film reviewer wrote this in May 2002: "Another thing to note is that this movie simply isn't the same movie after September 11th. Which is remarkable of itself, because most movies about current events are made after the fact, rather than before." Think of it as an alternate result to what happened after 9/11.