on February 5, 2003
Actually, it's about 3.5 stars; they really need a .5 option here, don't they? Anyway, I have to admit, I didn't expect this movie to be so great. I rented it on hopes that it would be good, and it didn't let me down. Owen Wilson may be one of the most underrated actors in today's distressing 'teen idol' movie business. And Gene Hackman proves once again why he's such a dominant force in film.
Wilson stars as Lt. Chris Burnett, a fighter pilot on his way out of the force. Then on a simple routine flight, him and his partner Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht) cross into territory they shouldn't have been near; which makes things take a turn for the worst. Wilson ends up on the run, alone, from the Russians who want him dead. Meanwhile, Adm. Leslie Reigart (Hackman) is forced to put many lives in danger for just one. It's an awesome action movie that holds your attention throughout, even if the plot seems to be a little dull (which it's really not). It ranks right up there with "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Patriot" as one of the best military/war movies one can view. Wilson is great; he handles the action perfectly, and he even chips in some good comedy towards the beginning of the movie.
Also, this is not the first time Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson have teamed up. In the same year (2001), both starred in the hilarious hit comedy "The Royal Tenenbaums", a movie that has quite a different style than that of this one. Grant it, I don't think they'll turn out to be the Ben Affleck/Matt Damon of the 00's, but they do work wonders together.
In seeing this film, you won't be disappointed with it. Although "Behind Enemy Lines" does not have the blood and guts/guns-in-your-face of "Saving Private Ryan" or even "The Thin Red Line", it's still a good action thriller you souldn't miss.
on February 5, 2004
A few years back, I had the opportunity to watch MI2. Remember that one? Tom Cruise motorcyling away from 200 machine gunners all of whom miss him? He turns around while doing 70 on the cycle and downs half of them with a pistol? It was so ridiculous it was as if it was to be a parody of action movies.
Well, this one's worse.
I don't want to cover much of the story as many a reviewer has done that. But at the beginning, Owen Wilson's character, a navy
lieutenant and flight navigator, is pondering leaving the navy when his tour is over in a couple of weeks. "Poor us. We don't even know what we're doing here? Where's the action, huh?" Oh, so down-home. Over-dramatic Gene Hackman, his admiral and presumed fleet commander, calls him in and reprimands him with the implication that he's trying to get him to stay. Despite the Christmas holiday, Wilson and his pilot--I don't care about the actor's name as I'll never again watch anything he's in--are to fly a recon mission over Bosnia. They go over a no-fly zone--read BREAK THE LAW--and are shot down.
I understand I need to avoid covering too much of the plot here. Despite the plot, the action is, again, reminiscent of parodies of action flicks. While Owen is escaping the enemy, countless machine gunners, tanks, marksmen, and God knows what else distinguish themselves in that they all miss him--again, and again, and again! Like bad propaganda, the Yank always outsmarts the enemy.
That's bad enough. But his running between mines that are destroying his incompetent enemies, with barely a scratch, always being missed by a few inches by the marksman who's been commissioned to kill him. It's painful to watch a story that stupid.
And throughout the whole process, the music is distracting--lots of jazzy drumbeat, hyper-military trombones, souzaphones and drums, or sappy romance music when something sentimental is supposed to be happening. It almost made me motion sick.
But, lest I go on for too long--the film isn't worth it, really--the real height of fantasy is toward the end. First, the marksman misses Owen AGAIN. Then, what a surprise, Owen pops from the snow bank, shoots the marksman five or six times, yet they still fight it out. (Drama, right? Five or six shots from a 9mm and the opponent still fights. Sure.
Surprise again, Owen wins the fight!) Then a dozen Serbian tanks
and a couple of hundred troops pop out from the trees. They're all
shooting at Wilson and ALL MISSING HIM! But Admiral Hackman comes to the rescue in three helicopters full of some tough guy marines. The tanks, troops, marksmen continue to miss Wilson who's running from them, and they even miss the US helicopters that are, oh, a quarter mile from them. But the troops on the choppers are shooting all of the enemy and never missing. Of course, we Yanks are better shots than anyone else in the world, right?
They all lived happily ever after with a homey cheer for Wilson when he gets, barely scratched, back on the carrier with the marching music now mixing with the sentimental. My tears were not falling!
Perhaps most disturbing about the film were its implications. Wilson and his pilot take the law into their own hands. Oh, I see, they found something nasty, and that justified their doing it. That's the end justified the means, something for which the Nazis were held responsible at Nuremburg. The overall theme, from Owen's character to that of Hackman's admiral, is a caricature of rugged individualism: I'll do what I please in spite of treaties, agreements, or respect for other people. That's what was most offensive about the script.
Again, avoiding too much plot detail, Owen decides to stay in the navy, and Hackman retires rather than concede to merely having disobeyed orders, something for which, in the real world an officer is court martialed.
After seeing this, I decided to painfully watch again the L. Ron Hubbard classic that made me chuckle a while back: "Battlefield Earth." That was chuckleworthy because it used every bad-fiction cliche in the book: the superhero, music to cover your ears by, really sappy romance, etc. Well, so much of it reminded me of this film that it was uncanny.
Well, I sat through the credits at the end to take notes. And my
finale is that I'll boycott anything director John Moore does, anything Owen Wilson does, and probably anything Gene Hackman does again. They should have refused to do such a terrible script.
on January 31, 2004
"Behind Enemy Lines" is a great example of the action film that is so fast-paced, so visually dazzling, and so tense that the viewer doesn't have much time to think about the film itself. Owen Wilson plays battle-untested Navy navigator Chris Burnett who, while on a reconnaissance mission, is shot down over Bosnia. Although both Burnett and his pilot escape alive, it quickly becomes clear they are in extreme danger. While commanding officer Admiral Reigart (Gene Hackman) begins plans for a rescue mission, he is hampered by those in command over him.
While the premise itself is formulaic - we've all seen this scenario many, many times - the tight pacing serves the movie well, as the viewer is thrust from one suspenseful scene to another, with barely time to breathe between each. The cinematography supplies a gorgeous texture that contrasts powerfully with the destruction Burnett must both witness and turn from to save his life. Both symbolic of the theme and visually powerful is the enormous statue of the Virgin Mary that Burnett parachutes past, her face beautiful on one side, blown away on the other. Upon seeing this early in the movie, you know that this action film will have its message.
This thriller provides great, tense escapism, with people, buildings, and trucks blowing up or being shot to pieces every few minutes. The suspense is aided by several original scenes, such as the heat-sensing satellite images being watched aboard the aircraft by carrier personnel. They can see Burnett being approached but can't understand why his pursuers walk right by him. Unfortunately, if you stop to long to consider things that happen, and how people react, you'll run right smack into implausibilities, clichés, and just plain stupidity.
I was torn about how many stars to give this film. I was riveted throughout despite its over-simplification and relative predictability. The strongest feature of this film is its ability to draw the viewer into the plot and keep him there. Just don't think too much about it afterward. Four stars if you want to get lost in an action thriller, three stars if you want something more.
on September 30, 2003
This film has some of the best flight sequences I have ever seen. The cinematography is superb, and one gets a glimpse into the speed a pilot experiences as he tries to outmaneuver an oncoming missile; it also shows the "nuts and bolts" of the ejection seat process, which I found fascinating.
Having fairly low expectations for this film, I was amazed at how entertaining and visually stunning it actually is, and am surprised it did not receive greater success in its theatrical release.
It takes place in Bosnia during an imaginary time, with US forces under NATO command, and though fiction, it uses captions at the end, telling the audience what happened to the characters, as if it were a true story.
Filmed on the USS Carl Vinson, and in Slovakia, with the beauty of the Carpathian mountains as a backdrop for the horror of a war zone, director John Moore keeps the pace of this film constantly pumping. Though some characters are somewhat cartoonish, and the script at times silly, much of the acting is good. Gene Hackman can always be depended upon for a solid performance, and Owen Wilson does well as the main protagonist, who starts out as being a rather shallow, whiny fellow, and grows with his extreme experience, as he plays a cat and mouse chase with a Serbian "tracker", played by Russian actor Vladimir Maskov. Gabriel Macht is excellent in the smaller part of the fighter pilot Stackhouse.
Yes, there are times the plot is contrived and not altogether believable, but this is more than made up for by the dazzling cinematography by Brandan Galvin, a fine score by Don Davis, and astounding visual and sound effects...and if you like jets and choppers the way I do, you are guaranteed to like this film.
on June 19, 2003
Oh, when I got this video, I'll tell you now: I believed that it was Sunday Afternoon material. But, my views have changed threefold since then. It really is an epic; a tale of how willpower can survive men of the highest caliber in the most serious and severe conditions. It's Christmas: everyone is in a good mood. But one proud man stands up to the captain: he's had enough of the damn navy: shouting, dying, crying: why should he do it? He tells Gene Hackman, playing the role of the captain. He's upset, and ridicules him bigtime. He sends the pilot and his best buddy to fly recon over Bosnia, now named Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the militia see them and shoot them down. They're the real Milosovich crew. It's a cat and mouse chase: and to cut a long story short, the young pilot's friend gets shot before his own eyes. The pilot runs for miles: through railway stations, explosions, death pits and assassins. People think he's dead. But he gets home safely.
I'll give this video four or even five stars, and as a fictional thing, it really brings home how the military deals with real war situations.
on February 3, 2003
In "Behind Enemy Lines", Owen Wilson stars as Lt. Chris Burnett, a Naval Aviator shot down in Bosnia and on the run from the murderous, genocidal Bosnia army. Gene Hackman is his supperior/father figure, Adm. Leslie Reigart. Hackman guides and comforts Wilson as he attempts to make his way to a safe landing zone where he can be picked up and flown to safety. Along the way, Wilson's character discovers that Muslims are still being slaughtered by the Bosnian Army in the so-called DMZ. Besides the army looking for him, Wilson must also escape from the lethal sniper known only as "The Tracker", who isn't much of a shot and is easily fooled. The film itself is ludicrus. There is no way that any of this could possibly happen. But that does not stop it from being entertaining.
What makes this film work is the utter determination of it's stars to take it seriously. They say their lines with absolute conviction, not going through the motions or hamming it up. With a plot like this, hammy acting, which admittedly has it's place in implausible action films, would have ruined it. These actors believe in what they're saying and doing. And it actually adds drama to a film that would have none if the actors didn't at least TRY to convey seriousness. Casting Wilson and Hackman was briliant, as was the casting of David Keith as Reigarts top aide. These men will not let the movie collapse around them. Keith never met a bad line he couldn't deliver with utter conviction. These three make the dramatic scenes work. Wilson seems appropriately disoriented as a pilot who wanted action in his missions but wasn't prepared for it. He's clumsy on the ground and not thinking straight most of the time. He conveys this well. It is now my belief that it is impossible for Gene Hackman to give a bad performance. He is at least good in everything he does. While he is only good here, he's still a commanding presence.
The action scenes are also well made. The downing of the plane is one of the best made jet action sequences since "Top Gun". It is exciting and tense, and it is a testament to the director's ability. Wilson's journey through a ruined Bosnia also has some excellent action scenes, such as the attack on the city of Haj, and a harrowing moment in a mine field, in which the director shows some flair. I won't give away the secrets of the totally absurd final actions scene, but say what you will about realisim, it's fun and exciting.
The film, upon release in late 2001, was criticized for being too rah-rah American, for being jingoistic. That is unfair. Why must the US being successful militarliy always be called Jingoistic? Is it because NATO wants to keep the American's from succeeding? I will say it is rah-rah American, but not so awful that it's jingoistic. There's no real message in this movie, other than genocide is bad and america's military will kick you butt.
In the end, it's only an OK movie, but it's not a disaster. I had fun watching it. Suspend your disbelief and enjoy.
on January 17, 2003
For a jingoistic, unrealistic popcorn movie that glorifies war, this is much better than it needs to be. Credit first-time helmer John Moore, who has a REALLY strong eye for visuals, convincingly capturing the chaos of battle, and even showing some ability to direct actors (unusual for a director of commercials). Director Moore even has the grace to slyly insert a piece of dialogue criticizing Hackman for risking the peace process and thousands of Bosnian lives for the sake of one American flyboy. And a tip of the hat to casting, which has a real find in the Bosnian sniper hunting Owen Wilson. In a seriously underwritten part, this actor manages to make the sniper character a convincing human being, which is no mean feat. Another special mention for animation--the effects are seamless. I never once got the impression that I was watching computer graphics and/or miniatures. Cinematography, stunts, wardrobe, and makeup are all first-rate. In general, the technical credits are flawless. Next time, Hollywood, give John Moore a crack at an excellent script and you might have another "Training Day" on your hands. That one was helmed by Antoine Fuqua, whose previous credits, "Bait" and "Replacement Killers" gave little or no hint of what he was capable of.
on January 8, 2003
Taut, exciting thriller about a gung-ho Air Force soldier (Owen Wilson) who gets shot down over restricted territory during a ceasefire in early 90s Bosnia. Commander Gene Hackman wants to send a team right away to save the lone traveller, but the search and rescue mission for one man who was flying outside his allotted mission could endanger a peace treaty that once disrupted could result in a full-blown war. Wilson's casually glib performance in the lead makes this obvious war propaganda so much easier to swallow, his self-effacing humour and lazy swagger all going against the square-cut, on-target caricatures we have gotten used to in this genre. Hackman is less successful at shaking off the shackles of expectation from his role, giving a performance that is an easy spin-off of his far superior turn in Crimson Tide. The last third gets extremely ridiculous (resolve all complications with lots of explosions and loud music), but until then the action is jam packed with lots of fun and extreme tension!
on January 1, 2003
I thought this was a good, almost realistic movie right from the start. The military-type action is almost non-stop and will surely drag any guy into watching it for any length of time. The storyline is basically about two Navy jet fighter pilots who stray off course, and inadvertantely take some pictures of stuff that they shouldn't have seen. After being spotted, they are shot down, and now run for their lives through the war torn country side in the middle of polictical upheavel. There is a final scene with intense action and the movie tends to keep you on the edge of your seat. The only scene I didn't like was at the end, which without blowing the end, will just say was mildly unrealistic in the last action sequence. This DVD is almost a good buy for any guy, and could be bought for soemone as a gift without worry. I rated this 4 stars and feel that it is a good buy. It is in my collection as I love the military movies. I heard that this was based on a true story, but am not sure about that part.
on November 15, 2002
Don't watch this expecting anything more than an action-packed, melodramatic, shallow, attention-holding, rootin'-tootin', flag-wavin', cheesey, cat-and-mouse, shoot 'em up. You'll be disappointed. This is no Jane Austin adaptation. Or We Were Soldiers for that matter. There's not much serious drama going on here. Look elsewhere.
Owen Wilson plays a Naval fighter plane's navigator. His performance is not Oscar-worthy, but more than adequate. He was funny and convincing. (I don't understand all the protests over the choice of him to play this character in these reviews. Who would they rather have? Stallone?) He and his pilot are shot down during a routine reconnaisance mission over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Gene Hackman plays the Admiral and commander of their carrier, and is handcuffed by NATO politics while trying to rescue his boys. The race is on to extract Wilson before he's caught by the... uh, Bosnians--err, no wait.. the Serbians--uh... whatever, the bad guys.
I was pleasantly surprised by this films entertainment value. Yes, it's a bit of a Navy commercial, but it's done well and looks great. It's very fast-paced and loaded with thrills. It held my attention throughout. The special effects were impressive, albeit rather cheesey in their implementation. Like a whole battalion shooting at a one running man and never hitting him. But it's spirit and thrills makes up for that type of deus ex machina convention. The effects sequence where their plane was being chased by a surface-to-air missile was nearly as good as can be done.
The picture and audio quality of the DVD are top notch. I've listened with only the DTS audio on, but I'm sure you'll find the other options done well also. The extras are a little spare, offering commentary, a short "featurette", and a couple trailers.
Overall I give this a 4 because it succeeds at entertaining, which is too infrequent of a quality in movies.