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BEHIND ENEMY LINES

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Joaquim De Almeida, David Keith, Olek Krupa
Director: John Moore
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: April 23, 2002

ďEvade and survive, and WE WILL BRING YOU HOME!Ē

Film ***

Behind Enemy Lines launched what turned out to be an endless array of war movies that seem to come out once a week in the wake of the 9/11 attack. There was also The Last Castle, which was released earlier, but it was more of a prison movie. Weíve had this movie, Black Hawk Down, Hartís War, We Were Soldiers, and the forthcoming John Woo flick, Windtalkers. While I would rank this movie behind the three aforementioned films, this is a perfect film for people to see as both an exercise of the American spirit, and those seeking a pure rush of adrenaline.

Set in what I assume is present day Bosnia, the movie starts by introducing its reluctant hero, Lt. Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson), who finds serving in the Navy to be something of a joke. He wants to serve his country, but he finds that difficult to accomplish when there is no war to be fought. Requesting to leave the Navy in two weeks, with Admiral Reigart (Gene Hackman) advising him to consider otherwise, Burnett is sent on a surprise recon mission on Christmas day. During this routine assignment, he and his co-pilot, Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht) venture off mission and receive images of mass grave and illegal troop maneuvering. When the ground troops, who turn out to be Serbs, spot the plane, they fire two missiles, and within minutes, their plane is shot down, in an effects sequence that is very much astonishing.

After the two pilots eject successfully from the plane and land on Bosnian ground, Burnett runs for help, but soon witnesses the enemy Serbs execute his co-pilot in cold blood, and then he finds himself on the run from them, as they follow his every movie. Meanwhile, on board the USS Carl Vinson, Reigart is trying to do what he can to get together a rescue squad, but he is ordered by NATO superiors not to do so, as it would cause current peace talks to disintegrate. Funny how this and my previously reviewed Spy Game share the idea of sacrificing human lives for the sake of simple peace talks. Reigart, on the other hand, doesnít understand letting one of his men alone to die.

Meanwhile, Burnett is running for his life from a vicious Serb assassin (Vladimir Maskov), who has been assigned by his military leader, Lokar (Olek Krupa) to kill the American soldier. In one review that was not kind to the movie, the critic noted that Wilsonís character and the villainous assassin resembled that of the Road Runner and Wyle E. Coyote, which is in some cases true. Wherever Burnett goes, the villains appear right away, and Burnett eludes successfully. It was a funny aspect of the film. It may make it sound a bit silly, but the movie remains fun from my point of view. One action scene that really blew me away was one where Burnett eludes his enemies through an abandoned factory rigged with tripwire bombs.

Owen Wilson has long been a strong supporting presence in many numerous movies (Meet the Parents, Armageddon, Zoolander), and Behind Enemy Lines marks the actorís first leading role. Iíve been very pleased that Wilson is finally getting the recognition he deserves, because Iíve been a fan of his ever since I first saw him in the independent fave Bottle Rocket. Chances are, after the success of this film, weíll be seeing much more of him. For an action hero, he provides the right touch of both humor and seriousness, much like the way Bruce Willis approached his action hero characterization of John McClane in Die Hard. His Chris Burnett is not a superman of any kind, but rather that of an everyman whose caught in a situation he just wants to see his way out of.

Both a nice dose of action adrenaline, as well as a very patriotic movie, Behind Enemy Lines gets the job done a hundred percent in both delivering thrills and extracting a sense of true American spirit and heroism.

Video ****

Fox rides high once again with their endless list of DVD triumphs with this glowing transfer. This anamorphic presentation gets the picture right in every frame possible. Picture quality is a hundred percent crisp and clear throughout, and colors, which range from dark grays to illuming bright blues, are vibrant all the way. With the action taking place outdoors, the sets and action appear even more exciting.

Audio ****

A pure blast of Fox brilliance! Behind Enemy Lines is a movie made of fast and furious action, thus includes an equal type of audio sound to it, and the 5.1 audio mix perfects this notion in the highest form. Surround sound is very much the case here, as all channels do a great job of pick up, especially in the action scenes, and the sudden sounds to go along nicely with the frenetic editing, is wonderfully captured as well. One of the best audio jobs Iíve heard all year!

Features ****

Lots to look at. First off, there are two commentaries, one with director John Moore and editor Martin Smith, and one with producers John Davis and Wyck Godfrey. Also included is a behind the scenes featurette, extended/deleted scenes with optional commentary, a pre-vis look at the ejection sequence, and a trailer for the upcoming Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg release, Minority Report.

Summary:

Behind Enemy Lines is as big a loud, loaded action pic as youíre going to find, and in this time, when audiences are more appreciative than ever a patriotic-themed movie, this is also as good of a current type of movie you will find.