Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: John Moore
Stars: Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson.
Behind Enemy Lines is just the first in a number of gung-ho, unswervingly patriotic, but rousingly exciting military-themed movies from Hollywood, set in some long forgotten war zones, that seem to have inadvertently tapped into the current international crisis as the war against terrorism wages.
While war rages in central European province of Yugoslavia, the US navy’s finest aircraft carrier the Carl Vinson sits off shore and can only monitor and watch. For pilot Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson) this lack of action is frustrating. But on a routine reconnaissance flight Burnett and his co-pilot capture on film the aftermath of a massacre and are shot down. Burnett survives while his co-pilot is executed by renegade military force, and is forced to flee across a hostile and unfamiliar terrain pursued by heavily armed army. His CO admiral Reigart (a gruff Gene Hackman) finds his attempts to mount a rescue mission are thwarted by NATO commanders anxious to preserve the fragile peace negotiations. Eventually Reigart is prepared to risk his career to save Burnett.
First time director John Moore hails from a background in slick commercials, and he certainly brings plenty of visual flourish to the material. Some of the aerial sequences are superbly shot, integrating CGI animation with some white-knuckle tension. Moore also uses hand held cameras, razor sharp editing and different camera angles to bring a sense of documentary like realism and energy and urgency to proceedings. Some of the impressively staged action sequences are a little over the top though, as Burnett is easily able to outrun and evade a heavily armed military force.
Hackman’s role is undemanding and familiar, and he seems to be wearily going through the motions, although his role as the determined protector of a hunted soldier is an ironic reversal of his role in the Vietnam war drama Bat 27. Wilson is better known for his comic roles in films like Zoolander and Meet The Parents, etc, but his normally smarmy presence is put on hold for this physically demanding and uncharacteristic action role.
While Behind Enemy Lines is certainly exciting stuff, those who want a more intense and unrelenting depiction of the experience of combat will just have to wait until Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down hits the screen.