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Behind Enemy Lines

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Behind Enemy Lines

Starring: Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman
Director: John Moore
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: November 2001
Genres: Action, Suspense, War

*Also starring: David Keith, Gabriel Macht, Eyal Podell, Travis Fine, Elizabeth Perry, Joaquim De Almeida

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

John Moore's BEHIND ENEMY LINES is a wonderfully patriotic picture about the extraction of an American pilot shot down in a war zone in Bosnia. A very timely movie, it features some of the best aerial combat footage ever filmed. With just one plane and two missiles chasing it, Moore fashions an early sequence that will take your breath away and put chills up and down your spine.

In a career making role, Owen Wilson (SHANGHAI NOON) moves from a comedy to an action hero as everyman Navy co-pilot Lieutenant Chris Burnett. Wilson's wonderful work might be thought of as Jimmy Stewart channeling Bruce Willis. The movie is a cat-and-mouse game as Burnett tries to elude capture by troops wanting to kill him on the spot in order to cover up atrocities that he accidentally filmed. Meanwhile, back on the aircraft carrier, Admiral Reigart (Gene Hackman) tries his best to get a rescue mission out to find Burnett and bring him back.

The retrieval mission is made nearly impossible by the political situation that Reigart is forced to deal with. In order not to disturb the tenuous and questionable peace on the ground, he keeps getting ordered and tricked into abandoning the extraction attempt. Although Wilson's terrific performance steals the show, Hackman does a masterful turn with a tricky role. When you want him to ignore orders, he is forced to chafe silently under them. Several times you get so involved in the story that you want desperately to yell out suggestions, as well as cheer the successes.

Okay, so the movie isn't perfect. There are some times when suspension of disbelief is required, but real war is messy and unpredictable, so what seems unlikely to us could well happen on the ground. And, if you're the sort who feels kind of uncomfortable with all the flags flying in your neighborhood, this probably isn't the picture for you.

The high energy cinematography features heavy use of handhelds and jump cuts, which are perfect for the combat sequences. The result is an exhilarating and thoroughly satisfying motion picture that raise great questions: Under what circumstances, if any, should we relinquish control of our military forces to our so-called allies? Should we be involved in police actions in which our objectives are unclear and our military responses highly limited? Is there ever a time when we should be willing to let our soldiers languish on hostile ground when we have the ability to pick them up? And should we ever let our political objectives get in the way of our military tactics when American soldiers' lives are risked in the process? For a country at war, these are all good questions for us to ponder.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES runs 1:45. It is rated PG-13 for "war violence and some language" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 12, thought it was easily one of the best pictures of the year and gave it ****. He liked the story, the cinematography and everything about it.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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