Behind Enemy Lines
Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
Teen to Adult
1 hr. 46 min.
Year of Release:
November 30, 2001 (wide)
The date was June 2, 1995. Captain Scott O’Grady’s F-16 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile south of the Bosnian city of Banja Luka. He evaded capture by Bosnian Serb forces for six days before his rescue June 8 by a Marine Corps search-and-rescue team. He was the hero that helped make Americans proud of the teamwork that exists in the military. Captain O’Grady demonstrated great training and survived tremendous odds by avoiding capture. I still can remember listening to his story of the extremes that he went through to hide in a hostile environment. He was an inspiration to many.
It is his story that has inspired the film “Behind Enemy Lines”. There is however a huge difference between Capt. O’Grady and Lieutenant Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson). I imagine that 2Oth Century Fox is hoping that we will overlook the obvious, skip the comparisons, and just simply check our brain at the door. This was just plain silly and remarkably brainless—even by Hollywood standards, helping to give a new definition to the phrase “the dumbing down of America.” Studios should have focused more on the plot and less on trying to beat “Black Hawk Down” to the theaters. Director John Moore includes lots of action, but no substance. Don Davis’ score and Brendan Galvin’s cinematography added really nothing to this over-hyped flic.
Lieutenant Burnett is a flight navigator on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson. They are currently on patrol in the Adriatic Sea during the peace talks in Bosnia. In the first few minutes we learn that our poor 7-year veteran has become bored and wants to resign. He has turned in his letter of resignation to Admiral Leslie Reigart (Gene Hackman). Reigart offers to keep his letter for a week and encourages Burnett to reconsider. To help overcome his boredom, Burnett and his pilot Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht) are sent out on a reconnaissance mission. They veer off course and deliberately go into the demilitarized zone when something unusual shows up on their radar. They get shot down and begin the process of avoiding capture and exposing the Serb’s secrets. It almost seems like from that point on that Burnett is in “Pierce Brosnia” instead of Bosnia. Almost any episode from TV’s “JAG” will give you a better story. The film mocked military preparedness more than it seeks to inspire a modicum of patriotism.
Here’s a testimony to some of this film’s silliness: Lt. Burnett walks around after he is shot down trying to find his friend by yelling for him. Stackhouse is injured and Burnett leaves him in an open field while he goes to radio for help. Burnett, after first exposed by the enemy, can outrun machine gun and tank fire. They show our hero sliding down a very dangerous concrete slab, but they never show him reaching the bottom. He runs out onto a highway during hot pursuit and is picked up by a truck playing American music. There is more, but I will conclude with the end of the film. After Burnett is rescued and he climbs into the helicopter, the enemy stops shooting. How polite.
There is no sex in “Behind Enemy Lines,” and the violence is mostly staged. There are two scenes that are extreme and the PG-13 rating should be observed. The f-word is used twice and there is a sprinkling of profanity. It is not a bad film from the aspect of objectionable content. But it does feel like a cheap war movie. Hollywood needs to learn to not always play to the MTV audience.
My recommendation is to skip this film on the big screen. If you’ve really got to see it, wait till the video/DVD release. it’s truly mindless entertainment. I’d prefer old Roadrunner and Coyote antics to Wilson being chased through Bosnia.