|Behind Enemy Lines
dir John Moore
scr David Veloz, Zak Penn
with Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Joaquim de Almeida, David Keith, Olek Krupa, Gabriel Macht, Charles Malik Whitfield, Don Winston, Bumper Robinson, Vladimir Mashkov, Travis Fine, Shane Johnson
release US 30.Nov.01; UK 4.Jan.02
Fox 01/US 1h45
With a whizzy, energetic visual style, unknown director Moore both breathes life into an otherwise routine script and trivialises the realities behind the fiction. But never mind; just hang on and enjoy the ride. Navy Pilot Burnett (Wilson) has had it with being nothing more than a patrol cop in Bosnia, and his commanding officer, Admiral Reigart (Hackman), has had it with his whinging. So he gives Burnett a Christmas recon mission. He gets shot down outside the safe zone. And then Reigart has to battle with Nato top brass (de Almeida) to get in there and Get His Man Out before the evil Serbian (Krupa) catches him.
As if the plot wasn't simple enough, Moore insists on repeating himself incessantly, reminding us of every tiny plot point to make sure we get it. This condescending attitude extends to the lame script, which has some truly inane turns in it and hackneyed dialog-o-rama. But two things make the film watchable: First, Wilson's casting is a stroke of genius, as he adds a sardonic subtext the rest of the film badly lacks. He simply gets every scene right, playing with the spark and authenticity that no one else bothers to tap into (Hackman is fine, but invests nothing in the role). Secondly, Moore and cinematographer Brendan Galvin go out of their way to give the film a stunning visual look, with Slovakia beautifully standing in for the snowy Bosnia and action/effects sequences that quite literally take the breath away. We never for a moment doubt what will happen next, but the breathless pace and eye-popping images keep us glued to our seats. And it hardly needs to be said that the film is more than a little bit spooky in the timing of its release, what with another similarly shadowy "war" raging a bit further to the east.
"Okay, it is the season to shop til you drop, but why not take in a movie when you need a break? Except this movie is no break - I found it to be suspenseful, edge of my seat, hang on to your partner's arm, thriller. I liked some of the special camera photographic effects - making it seem more real - like I would suspect one may be feeling if involved in the actual action. The scene where their jet gets shot down was totally gripping - even though you know it is about them getting shot down, you keep hoping they will evade that missile ... and whew, they made it, ooops, they didn't. I really liked this movie - Gene Hackman shows he still has it, and Owen Wilson, I need to learn more about - I only know him from Shanghai Noon. But he plays the disenchanted Navy pilot well - he joined to fight, but ends up not being allowed to do what he was trained to do. I enjoyed this movie, and highly recommend you go see it - but don't expect it to be relaxing - get ready to hang on!" --Laurie T, Minneapolis 3.Dec.01
"The film had some great action sequences, particularly the jet evading the SAM missiles, and we felt this was a pilot, a man in trouble, not an actor which we'd have had if it was Tom Cruise. Also particularly nice chain cannon sequences at the end." --Matt Dowson, Yorkshire 20.Jan.02