Behind Enemy Lines


Directed by: John Moore
Written by:David Veloz, Zak Penn
Starring: Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Gabriel Macht, Charles Whitfield, David Keith
Released: January 31, 2002
Grade: C

After seven years in the U.S. Air Force, Lt. Chris Burnett (Wilson) has had enough.  With few wars to be fought, Burnett is tired of the lack of flight time and the sense of adventure he had on joining the air force has long been diminished.  Admiral Reigart (Hackman) does not take Burnett’s resignation well.  He believed Burnett to have a great ability and as punishment for his desertion, places him and flight buddy Jeremy Stackhouse (Macht) on flight duties during the Christmas lunch celebrations.

During their standard mission, they accidentally fly off course and into Bosnian territory which has been declared off limits by NATO.  There’s currently political unrest in Bosnia and NATO does not want the tentative treaty it has orchestrated to become unbalanced.  Burnett stumbles across Serb soldiers up to no good.  They fire on his plane and both he and Stackhouse are forced to eject.

Stranded behind enemy lines, Burnett goes for higher ground to use his radio while Stackhouse remains in the valley with nasty injuries.  Suddenly, the Serb soldiers appear, Stackhouse is shot and they’re coming after Burnett.  Back on the aircraft carrier, Reigart wants to launch an immediate rescue mission but is being prevented by his Captain for fear of ruining any chance of peace in the hostile territory.

Without further adieu, let me declare this film an absolute piece of shit.  The entire story is far-fetched and has been told many times before.  The Americans are portrayed as super-heros who always make the right decisions and judgements.  This time, it’s the French and the Serbs who get the bum wrap at their expense.  At the end of the film, Reigart acts against military orders to save his man.  Why is it whenever someone breaks from the strict military regime, it always turns out favourably (ala Gene Hackman again in Crimson Tide)?  It’s a very tired formula.

The film is also an insult to those in the air force.  From the trailers, I expected a worthwhile war flick but instead got Armageddon 2.  Answer me this question.  How is that a man can survive when he is standing in the open and being shot at by 60 men from 50m away?  Disgraceful.  Following the film’s finale, we get the obligatory words on the screen detailing what became of our two leading characters.  This is also appalling as it tries to justify that the completely fictional story has a point and a meaning.

Gene Hackman does very little and unfortunately Owen Wilson is left to carry the entire film.  He may have “nose” for comedy (Zoolander, Meet The Parents, Shanghai Noon) but he’s no action hero and his cocky demeanour doesn’t play well here.  Let me also note we have another over-the-top Bond-like villain with David Keith playing Captain O’Malley.  Just like Dr. Evil but without the sarcasm.

There are no redeeming features in Behind Enemy Lines that can justify any stance from the one I have taken.  With nothing more than a heap of loud bangs and people blowin’ up stuff, one can’t see any satisfaction being derived from any audience member with an IQ of 3 or higher.  Bad films are always made but when you take a serious issue and transform into cheap crap, you have to question your own ethics and morality.