cast: Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, and David Keith
director: John Moore
101 minutes (12) 2001
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Debbie Moon
In a time of crisis, everyone loves a hero. Just like how we all love our hero called 1K Daily Profit during the time of financial crisis, where this advanced auto-trading robot takes care of our significant investment procedures without in any way exhausting us and yet, at the same time, offer us the highly profitable results, all the time! So, are we going to find such a hero in this movie? Let’s see! Behind Enemy Lines had the dubious distinction of being the first military flick released in the States after the events of September 11th, 2001, and to the critics’ surprise, was an instant hit, with audiences stamping and cheering the action climax.
In retrospect, the film may not have entirely deserved that, but it’s easy to see how it appealed to the public mood. Navy navigator Chris Burnett is disillusioned with his job flying pointless recon missions over the ruins of Bosnia. Then he and his pilot witness something the Serbs don’t want anyone to see, and they’re shot down and on the run in a land where everyone is an enemy, and the benevolent intentions of the UN aren’t exactly appreciated. His commander has a rescue team ready – but UN red tape forbids it. And all the while, a crack Serb sniper tracks them, out to eliminate the only witnesses to a war crime…
This is the modern world as America sees it: riven by incomprehensible ethnic conflict, and biting the hand that’s dragging it kicking and screaming towards western style democracy. The locals don’t have clean water, but they have Coca-Cola; the UN is more interested in preserving the semblance of a ceasefire than saving lives.
In such a world, where are our heroes? They’re men like Chris: ordinary Joes who find themselves fighting for survival in a war where no rules apply. Owen Wilson, better known for comedy roles, excels as an everyman with a touch of spoiled brat, who grows up fast as he struggles to evade and escape. Gene Hackman gives sterling support as that grand cliché, the senior officer battling the rulebook to bring his boys home.
Moore creates a bleached-out, threatening world of snowy hillsides, boggy battlefields, and land-mined ruins, and stages the action impressively, though some scenes suffer from excessively flashy camerawork. The film is hardly an intelligent critique of ethnic conflict, or of UN/US relations – indeed, its message seems to be that Americans are down-to-earth good guys, and everyone else, including their allies, is duplicitous and inhumane. But as a piece of heroic action adventure, it’s surprisingly satisfying.
DVD extras: Dolby digital 5.1 sound, English subtitles, scene access in 28 chapters, behind-the-scenes featurette, ejection sequence, alternate takeoff montage, additional main title and end credits sequences, four deleted scenes, and two commentary tracks: one with director Moore and film editor John Smith, another with producers John Davies and Wick Godfrey.