Behind Enemy Lines (2001)
February 15, 2024 8:37 PM - Subscribe

A disillusioned pilot shot down over war-torn Bosnia goes on the run from the local military and an assassin, as his commanding officer risks all to save him.

A Navy pilot (Owen Wilson) is shot down over enemy territory, and struggles to survive the relentless pursuit of a ruthless secret police enforcer, a deadly tracker, and countless hostile troops. With time running out, the injured pilot's commanding officer (Gene Hackman) goes against orders to carry out a desperate rescue mission.

Margaret A. McGurk: Mr. Wilson does an appealing job as a guy who never thought he'd have to use his survival training, but uses it with courage and cunning when the time comes.

He, like the movie, is at his best when on the move. Once required to slow down and talk, Mr. Wilson is forced to swap turgid dialogue with Mr. Hackman — exchanges that leave both of them looking pained.

This movie works pretty well as long as you don't pay too much attention to what anyone says and just let the action sweep you along. But be careful; don't start trying to detect, you know, themes or anything. You could get a headache.

Judith Egerton: Moore's overuse of quick cuts, hand-held camera shots, zooms, a hyperactive score and MTV-style editing made me wish I'd swallowed Dramamine before the opening shot.

Hackman, who easily convinced us he was a master thief in David Mamet's "Heist," looks as though he's on automatic pilot here. He goes through the motions playing a tough commander with a soft spot for his "boys," but you can see his heart isn't in it. And who can blame him? We've seen that very character in dozens of similar movies.

Wilson is not your typical handsome action star -- you can't call him handsome, for one thing, and he isn't usually seen in action movies. His oddly shaped nose and idiosyncratic way of speaking make him an unusual leading actor, period. He's known best for co-writing "Rushmore" and for his roles in the comedies "Meet the Parents" and this year's "Zoolander." But he does a decent job considering the limitations of a script that never puts his fate in question.

Artie Gentille: Director John Moore leverages the picturesque landscapes of war-torn Bosnia to create a visual spectacle that, despite the film’s bonkers premise, adds a layer of authenticity. The contrast between the serene beauty of the landscape and the brutality of war becomes a poignant backdrop to Burnett’s journey. The aerial sequences, in particular, showcase Moore’s directorial prowess. The dogfights and high-stakes chases through the vast expanse of the Bosnian wilderness are choreographed with a visceral intensity that elevates the film beyond its inherently silly premise. The visual spectacle becomes an integral part of the film’s appeal, inviting audiences to buckle up for a visually arresting joyride. And yet, Behind Enemy Lines does not shy away from embracing the absurd. From a lone navigator outsmarting an entire enemy army to surviving seemingly impossible situations, the film revels in its over-the-top narrative choices. The pursuit of Burnett by the relentless antagonist, played with sinister zeal by Vladimir Mashkov, becomes a cat-and-mouse game that defies the laws of probability. And it is precisely these bonkers plot elements that contribute to the film’s charm. The sheer audacity of the narrative choices, while undeniably silly, transforms Behind Enemy Lines into a guilty pleasure for audiences craving unadulterated escapism. The film becomes a testament to the notion that sometimes, in the realm of cinema, embracing the absurd can lead to unexpected delight.

posted by Carillon (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is this the only American action film set in Bosnian war? There might be others that I'm not aware of, but the only other one I can remember is set modern day dealing with that aftermath. It's an interesting choice, given that it directly references the genocide, which raises the actual stakes higher than the movie can support. I guess it's good that they're not hiding it, but the movie is very elevated beyond a normal, can this person survive flick.
posted by Carillon at 8:43 PM on February 15

I should watch this again. My main recollection of it is that Hackman’s presence invites comparisons with the surprisingly googlable Bat*21.
posted by MarchHare at 9:44 PM on February 15

Judging from the trailer, the latest version is Land of Bad with a Hemsworth and Russell Crowe in the Hackman role. But now with drones!
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:23 AM on February 17

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