Behind Enemy Lines


Owen Wilson as Lieutenant Chris Burnett
Gene Hackman as Admiral Reigart
Joaquim de Almeida as Admiral Piquet
David Keith as O’Malley
Olek Krupa as Lokar
Gabriel Macht as Stackhouse
Charles Malik Whitfield as Rodway
Vladimir Maskov as Tracker

Behind Enemy Lines is a decent action film.

Lieutenant Chris Burnett is a disillusioned navigator for a Navy jet fighter. He is tired of military police actions and is ready for war. He gets his wish when his fighter is shot down over Bosnia by renegade Serbs.

On the ground and on the run from the army and snipers, he attempts to make his way to a pickup point for rescue. However, his commanding officer, Admiral Reigart, is hampered by bureaucracy and politics and is unable to simply go in and pick Burnett up. Burnett’s situation becomes even more desperate when he learns the secret reason why the Serbs want him dead.

Behind Enemy Lines is rated PG-13 for war violence and some language.

What Worked:
I never would have thought Owen Wilson could carry a dramatic action film, but he does it well. Long known for his comedy roles, Wilson easily branches into the action genre. He does a good job in the fight scenes and chase sequences. However, he does have a few funny scenes early on as he banters with his pilot. This helps lighten the mood and makes the characters a bit more human and likable. It’s not over the top, either. Gene Hackman is good, too, but this role isn’t particularly challenging for him.

The highlight for me was the fighter sequences at the beginning. These are some of the best fighter scenes to come along in a while. The effects are impressive as the jet fighter attempts to evade surface-to-air missiles. The inevitable crash sequence was also well done. I would have liked to have seen more fighter scenes, but what was there was satisfying.

The politics in this film are fuzzy. The action is frequently improbable. At times the dialogue is cheesy. But ultimately Behind Enemy Lines is a decent action movie that you may find worth checking out.

What Didn’t Work:
The director often resorts to hand held cameras for many of the action scenes. This gives a dramatic effect, but it eventually becomes disorienting and dizzying. You might get seasick watching some of the scenes (ala Blair Witch).

The plot centers around the U.S. being unable to fly in and rescue their pilot due to political pressures rather than any military threat. I don’t know much about politics in Bosnia, but I found it a bit hard to swallow. If the U.S. had a pilot down and it was well within their power to rescue them, I can’t see why they wouldn’t go in after them. This made much of the film hard to swallow though there was a fair degree of realism throughout the rest of the film.

As for the action, it was fairly good though at times outrageous. By the end, it went over the top. Burnett is shown repeatedly running away from dozens of soldiers firing machine guns at him. Of course, he never gets a scratch on him. They can knock a Navy fighter out of the sky but they can’t hit a man running through an open field with 50 guys and two tanks. I think the final scenes could have been reworked and made more effective.