But that all changed on September 11, when American support for patriotism and military might -- no matter who the adversary -- hit a sudden, fever pitch. And so it was that the spring 2002 release (a dumping ground for films with very low expectations) of Behind Enemy Lines was pole-vaulted forward to the holiday heyday of November 30, 2001, buoyed by sky-high audience approval at test screenings. You want your ripped-from-today's-headlines movie? You got it.
In the film, Owen Wilson plays Chris "Longhorn" Burnett, a disillusioned Navy navigator who is contemplating ending his career because of the numerous and tedious recon missions he partakes in over Kosovo. Longhorn wants out of the Navy, and during a spat with his commanding officer Leslie Reigart (Gene Hackman), he lands himself in holiday recon duty. Alas, during the mission, he and his co-pilot "Smoke" Stackhouse veer off course and snap pictures of Serbian genocidal atrocities. Longhorn and Smoke end up in parachutes after two SAMs take out their plane during a wild, intense chase sequence, and Longhorn ends up on the run after Serbian rebels execute his pal.
On the homefront, Commander Reigart fights through red tape and against political blowhards who would rather leave Burnett to the wolves than send in a rescue squad, which could create a political catastrophe (see also Spy Game). With a Russian tracker and Serbian rebels on his heels -- and a Steadicam operator pacing them all -- Burnett crisscrosses the Serbian terrain like John Rambo minus the big knife, while Commander Reigart fights to bring him home.
Wilson, a great actor, does a solid job as Burnett, but I never want to see him in another action movie. It's like watching Stallone in Copland. Once is enough. Gene Hackman, as usual, acts like a hungry dog given a meaty bone.
The technical aspects of Behind Enemy Lines are the best part of the film. Forget about the story and script: Surviving the Game crossed with Top Gun. The effects are tense and downright unnerving -- SAM missiles chasing jets, explosions rocketing bodies into the air, and enough firepower whizzing by to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Too bad the whole thing falls apart thanks to Burnett's ridiculous attitude, who is constantly left stranded by the military he fights for, becoming reminiscent of the insulting tone of John Wayne in The Green Berets. His reaction to the insolence from above is insulting. Not a good thing in a war movie.
Blue man group.
Run time: 106 mins
In Theaters: Friday 30th November 2001
Box Office USA: $58.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $91.8M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Davis Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 37%
Fresh: 48 Rotten: 82
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: John Moore
Producer: John Davis
Starring: Owen Wilson as Lt. Chris Burnett, Gene Hackman as Admiral Leslie McMahon Reigart, Gabriel Macht as Stackhouse, Charles Malik Whitfield as Capt. Rodway, USMC, David Keith as Master Chief Tom O'Malley, Olek Krupa as Miroslav Lokar, Joaquim de Almeida as Admiral Piquet, Vladimir Mashkov as Sasha, Marko Igonda as Bazda, Eyal Podell as Petty Officer Kennedy, Geoff Pierson as Admiral Donnelly, Aernout Van Lynden as Aernout Van Lynden, Sam Jaeger as Red Crown Operator, Shane Johnson as Red Crown Operator, Don Winston as Red Crown Operator, Laurence Mason as Brandon, Leon Russom as Ed Burnett, Todd Boyce as Junior Officer, Dorothy Lucey as Dorothy Lucey
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