Retro Review: Behind Enemy Lines

In a story seemingly ripped from the headlines, Navy pilot Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson) is shot down in an occupied section of Bosnia. After he miraculously lives through the destruction of his F-16, Burnett finds himself being hunted by a vicious assassin and a ruthless commander as he awaits an extraction home.

Meanwhile back at sea, Reigert (Gene Hackman), Burnett’s commander must do all he can to amount a rescue mission to save his man from the enemy. The question remains will diplomatic channels allow the mounting of a rescue.

“Behind Enemy Lines” is an electrifying action film that is very well crafted and flawlessly executed. The film does a lot to maintain its tension as we really begin to associate ourselves with the plight of Burnett. This film could have easily turned into a cerebral survival film, like the film 1993’s “Alive”, but after the crash it instead delivers an adrenaline paced cat-and-mouse game, as Burnett must avoid the assassin. The situations and obstacles Burnett is thrown into are clever and exciting. I also loved the action timing and execution in this film as the “tank rounds” and gunfire are done flawlessly.

It really is a shame that the two obvious flaws of the film are executed so badly that they stick out in what could have been an excellent project. The first flaw comes with a lot of the dialogue that Hackman has to say. It’s obvious the screenwriter didn’t know how to really write Hackman’s character.

I mean half the stuff that this decorated actor has to say is laughable. When the film goes away from Hackman it’s amazing but when it returns you are disappointed. The second flaw comes in the film’s conclusion. The conclusion is so blatantly ridiculous that I shook my head and screamed at the film. Why couldn’t they have had an as exciting conclusion as they did when Burnett crashed?

When I went into this film my first fear was the casting of Owen Wilson in the action-hero role but I quickly became interested in Wilson’s Burnett as a guy like you and me. This I think really helped in my association and interest in seeing Burnett returned home safe.

This film could have easily been the best action film of the year if it could have kept the obvious flaws in check. Not bad for a first time film director John Moore, however.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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