Behind Enemy Lines (2001) – movie review

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Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger

Starring: Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Joaquin De Almeida
Director: John Moore

BEHIND ENEMY LINES is the first of what is sure to be a wave of war genre movies. Lieutenant Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson) is a disillusioned US Navy pilot serving aboard an aircraft carrier on active duty during the war in Bosnia. His plane is shot down while flying his final reconnaissance mission and while both Burnett and his co-pilot and best friend Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht) initially survive the crash, Stackman is brutally executed by a ruthless secret police enforcer in an effort to stop the revealing reconnaissance photographs they have taken getting back to the US and NATO command.

Because of the delicate political situation, the US commander Reigart (Gene Hackman) is ordered not to fly a rescue mission into restricted air space to retrieve Burnett but instead must order Burnett to make his own way on foot through hostile enemy territory to a rendezvous point in a supposedly neutral area. Burnett is pursued throughout the ordeal by the secret police enforcer and the Serbian army whilst Reigart must decide whether to stay out of the restricted zone or ignore his orders and rescue Burnett and risk the stability of the proposed peace treaty.

Whilst some will no doubt accuse BEHIND ENEMY LINES of blatant flag waving patriotism, those willing to give the film a fair viewing will be rewarded with a story which clearly demonstrates the delicacies of an extremely unstable political arena occupied on the one hand by the joint US/NATO command and the Bosnian and Serbian situation. A very balanced view is laid out for the viewer as we see the frustration of the US commander who has the power of his aircraft carrier at his fingertips but is unable to use it for fear of restarting the fighting in the war zone.

Owen Wilson really is excellent and demonstrates his versatility as an actor as his role sharply constrasts with his parts in comedies such as ZOOLANDER, MEET THE PARENTS and SHANGHAI NOON.

The action sequence where his jet is shot down by ‘SAMS’ really is spectacular and technically the sound effects were as good as I’ve ever heard (bullets whizzing past your ears).

BEHIND ENEMY LINES successfully presents entertainment while using a very serious subject matter especially in terms of the present war situation. An enjoyable and yet thought provoking movie.

4 out of 6 stars