Good Action with High Concept
Reviewed By: Avraham Azrieli
Avraham Azrieli writes novels and screenplays.

This 1997 movie has benefited from the passage of time. A cast led by two great-looking actors (Snipes and Lane) who give an excellent and credible performance as they go from opponents to collaborators in a plot of high stakes: The U.S. President himself.

The story has all the components of a good thriller: Murder, sex, power, and the threat of war. It builds gradually from an all too common D.C. murder of a young woman—albeit inside the White House—to an investigation that appears easily on its way to an arrest of the murderer, only that the evidence begins to crumble, giving way to a room of mirrors where the good guys become bad, and the patriots become traitors (with good intentions, though.)

Wesley Snipes delivers his best combination of thorny charm, crusty persistence and sweaty violence. Diane Lane is beautiful, even when she gets dirty, which she gradually does as the movie progresses to its violent climax. Alan Alda, as the NSC Chair, is excellent, though he presents a tough case when it comes to suspending disbelieve, unless you are one of those handful of Americans who had not watched M.A.S.H. reruns a million times.

Murder at 1600 is not only good entertainment with a clever, repeatedly surprising plotline, but it raises serious questions about the stability of the presidency, the vulnerability of the president, and the balance of power between the civilian authority and the military, especially in times of perceived threats. This is a very good action movie with a credible high concept that leaves you thinking.