Being in a mood for science fiction, I settled in to watch Enemy Mine as it opened with a good old-fashioned space battle, never imagining I would be moved to tears more than once before this most unexpectedly heart-touching film came to an end. I don't think I've shed a science-fiction related tear since E.T., but Enemy Mine is just an indescribably beautiful and moving film. Heck, I think I even like Dennis Quaid now, but Lou Gossett, Jr., turned in an even more remarkable performance than Quaid. The man should have been nominated for an Oscar, in my opinion.
As I alluded to already, this futuristic film opens in a time of war. Humans may have achieved peace on earth by 2092, but their competition with the reptilian Drac race over colonization of a certain galaxy has erupted into full-scale interstellar war. Willis Davidge (Dennis Quaid) is a human fighter pilot who ends up crash landing on an alien planet - as does the Drac fighter he was determined to shoot down. Relatively uninjured by the crash, Davidge heads off toward the smoke of the alien vessel's wreckage; he is sure that the enemy's ejection pod must have landed somewhere nearby. His attempt to kill the Drac goes awry, however, resulting in his capture. The harsh circumstances of life on the barren world somehow conspire to keep these two mortal enemies from killing one another, and their relationship of captor and slave gradually grows into a bond of mutual cooperation and ultimately a deep and abiding friendship. Luckily for us, Jeriba "Jerry" Shigan (Louis Gossett, Jr.) learns English much more quickly than Davidge learns Drac. Mutual understanding actually leads to more enmity between them at times, particularly when it comes to laying the blame for the current war between their races, and Davidge actually goes off on his own looking for help at one point - but their bond of friendship, as unlikely a thing as could ever be, proves to be larger than the both of them.
Unfortunately, I can't risk revealing any more of the plot, which makes it impossible for me to talk about the truly special and heart-warming strengths of this amazing film's plot. The story's not entirely unpredictable, but that doesn't make it any less powerful. Above all else, this is an exceedingly human story, replete with more than enough triumph and tragedy to pull at the old heart-strings quite strongly. It's all about one's perspective and how it could change. Any other place but here, on this harsh and dangerous alien world, Davidge and Jerry would be the most bitter of enemies, yet each of them come to know the worth and nobility of not only each other but each other's cultures. And, before all is said and done, one of them is forced to recognize the evil segment that exists within his own culture - and to take action against it.
The true purpose of science fiction is not to merely entertain us; it is, as far as I'm concerned, to further elucidate the underlying humanity of mankind and the place of the individual in an infinite universe that begs the question of his very existence - in other words, why are we here and just who the heck are we, anyway? Enemy Mine fulfills this purpose in spades. It will make you laugh, it will very likely make more than a few of you cry, and it will draw you in like few other films in this or any other genre - and, ultimately, it will compel you to look at yourself and your worldview in a new, perhaps even more enlightened way. This is truly one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. I didn't know whether to cry or stand up and cheer at the very end - actually, I wanted to do both at the same time.