An Enemy of the People

4 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
The casting of Steve McQueen as the hero of Ibsen's play (a scientist determined to expose the pollution of a prosperous small town's water supply) threatens the worst. But his performance, together with Durning's as his brother the mayor (equally determined to put the lid on any scandal) make it fairly creditable. Sure, it's stagebound. But decent production values, and direction that preserves the suspense of Ibsen's exposition, make sure that it remains watchable until the play's own unsatisfactory last act. The only really offensive aspects are the denunciation scene, and the degeneration of the hero into an increasingly sentimentalised Christ-like martyrdom, as much the fault of the text as of McQueen's interpretation.

By: RM

Release details

107 mins

Cast and crew

George Schaefer
Alexander Jacobs
Steve McQueen
Bibi Andersson
Charles Durning
Richard A Dysart
Michael Cristofer
Michael Higgins

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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This film is exactly the opposite of what you expect to see Steve McQueen do - which is exactly why he did it. This film would be much more widely seen if another actor had played the lead, but that is not due to any fault with McQueen's performance. You keep waiting for him to slip up, but he doesn't. From first to last you can't believe this is action star Steve McQueen, and given how well known and bankable that star was, this is an unqualified triumph.

The film appears a bit stiff and staged because it uses American actors such as Charles Durning in other key roles, whose habitual speech and manner we have seen, and are more informal than the dialogue requires. The Scandinavian actors are more what we expect, but again we the audience are the problem - this film plays with our expectations, which many people (particularly professional critics) do not like, but this is in no way the fault of the actors.

I look forward to the day when people can hold their heads up high and say that Steve McQueen also starred in An Enemy of the People. Anyone who is a prisoner of their image will derive profit from this movie.

It was four years since The Towering Inferno, Steve chose to appear in a film that dumbfounded the industry, An Enemy Of The People. I can't think of any other reason that drove Steve to want to do An Enemy Of The People except to prove, maybe to himself to start with, and maybe to the public too, or to Hollywood, that he was more than just the physical type. The film was a critical disaster, and was withdrawn from distribution. However, some critics applauded the courage of Steve's effort.