In the wake of the horrific events of September 11th, America had a newfound feeling of patriotism. For the first time in decades the country came together to celebrate precious life and mourn the death of thousands of innocent victims. Flags were unfurled outside of homes, donations were placed, and volunteers came out of the woodwork to help those who were in need. Not surprisingly, Hollywood stepped up to the plate with a slew of films meant to instill a feeling of American pride in moviegoers. But before there was Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, Bruce Willis' Hart's War or Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers, there was the gung-ho Owen Wilson/Gene Hackman action drama Behind Enemy Lines. Also starring David Keith (The Indian In The Cupboard) and lots of special effects, Behind Enemy Lines comes soaring onto DVD care of Fox Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
While on a holiday reconnaissance mission with his partner Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht), Navy pilot Chris Burnett (Wilson) spots some trouble in a far off forest. What they end up finding is a virtual graveyard of gruesome corpses that were disposed of by hostile Serbian forces fresh off of a new peace treaty! After snapping some digital photos and then being shot down by some heat seeking missiles (I hate it when that happens), Brunett's partner is brutally massacred by the vicious Serb Tracker (Vladimir Mashkov) while his commander (Olek Krupa) looks on. Soon Burnett has the Serb's tracking him for one sole purpose: assassination! Burnett is able to make radio contact with US Admiral Reigart (Hackman), a tough-as-nails officer who hasn't been very friendly with Burnett in the past but is willing to put aside differences to get his boy home! Unfortunately, Reigart's hands are tied by Admiral Piquet (Joaquim de Almeida), a French NATO officer who shadily puts a halt to Reigart's rescue operations. With time running out and death breathing down his back, Chris Burnett must get himself out of Bosnia and back to the USA before he becomes the next causality of war!
Well I'll be a monkey's uncle. I actually liked Behind Enemy Lines. Technically speaking, I shouldn't have liked this movie even one iota. It's really just a big, huge pile of silly sitting on top of an even bigger pile of stupid. The whole thing is just utterly unbelievable. It's been quite sometime since I saw a movie that stretches the limits of realism like Behind Enemy Lines does. But for some reason which I can't explain, it all comes together.
This movie is like a huge piece of patriotism dumped in the moviegoer's lap. Every American is looked at as a hero. Every foreign character is looked at as the Devil, and not one of them knows how to shoot straight. You know that old cliché where the hero always hits his target yet the bad guys always miss no matter what? Well, in Behind Enemy Lines this principle is used times ten. Wilson's character is able to hit targets from 1000 feet away, yet the Serbs can't hit a single stinkin' target using eighteen tanks, sixty five machine guns and a missile launcher. Yes, it's preposterous—but it's also very entertaining.
I can tell you exactly why Behind Enemy Lines won me over: it moved at a very brisk pace. With a movie as goofy as this, you want it to move smoothly and quickly. There's never much need or reason to slow down and ponder characterization or plot—I mean, let's face it, this isn't Shakespeare. A guy gets shot down over a bad area, he has to get escape before he's killed, end of story. That's the entire plot of Behind Enemy Lines. There's some discussion about NATO forces, peace treaties, and mass genocide, but that's all sidestepped for really loud explosions.
Owen Wilson makes for a fairly engaging action star as he runs, jumps, hides, shoots, flees, runs some more, and flings himself off of ensuing cliffs in an effort to stay one step ahead of his enemy. Like Keanu Reeves (but in a much better fashion), Wilson will always have that all-American California surfer dude demeanor no matter what role he's in. Even the most mundane dialogue comes off as humorous with Wilson's charm. Gene Hackman does a fine job with his role as Reigart, though you get the feeling that he could have played this character in his sleep. The rest of the cast is made up of a bunch of foreign looking citizens and soldiers with really big guns saying things like "Nyet! Yo dado na fresca en biggo snakeo fraco!" (translation: "The blonde guy from Anaconda is running around in our backyard!").
If I'm making Behind Enemy Lines sound like a simplistic action movie, then I've done my job as a reviewer. Behind Enemy Lines is based on an actual event that happened when solider Scott O'Grady was shot down over enemy lines in 1995, though I suspect this is the dumbed-down Hollywood version of that story. It may not be plausible or accurate, but holy cow is it entertaining. God bless the USA!
Behind Enemy Lines is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was very impressed with how nice a job Fox has done on this transfer. Sporting some very vivid color schemes and well saturated black levels, the image quality on Behind Enemy Lines is darn near to perfection. Not a hint of grain, dirt, digital artifacting, or edge enhancement was present during any of the scenes. This is a great looking print!
The audio is featured in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, DTS 5.1 Surround in English, and Dolby 2.0 Surround in Spanish. Both the Dolby 5.1 and DTS soundtracks work very well on a home theater system. There are some great moments in this film where all of my speakers seemed to be rocketing around me. With full directional use and some bombastic sound effects, Behind Enemy Lines's soundtrack is one of the best I've heard on any recent action film. If I had to pick a specific track, I'd go with the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack, but only by a tiny margin. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
On par with many of Fox's newer theatrical releases, Behind Enemy Lines includes a nice array of extra materials. Starting off the disc is two commentary tracks, the first by director John Moore and editor Martin Smith, the second by producers John Davis and Wyck Godfrey. The first track by the director and editor is rather interesting (both have head colds, so they sound very congested). Each of these guys seem fairly impressed with the film, and the most interesting thing I pulled out of this was the discussion of Don Davis' (The Matrix) music score which the director thought was a bit experimental for an action movie. The second commentary by the producers includes a lot of production information, though I found it to be a bit drier than the first track. Combined, both of these tracks should provide fans with a wealth of information about the movie.
The behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of Behind Enemy Lines is your basic promo piece, though it does include some fairly cool interviews with some US Navy workers, Owen Wilson, director John Moore, and a few other cast and crew members. Not only did Owen Wilson star in the film, but he also had the chance to go supersonic on a real life aircraft! Lucky dog. Five deleted/extended scenes are included along with an alternate opening and end credit sequences. The deleted scenes are all fun to watch, though it's obvious why they were left of the editing floor, as they don't add much to the action or the story. The true gem here is the alternate end credits sequence that shows a chilling finale for the lead bad guy and the victims of the mass grave in Bosnia. The "Pre-Vis Ejection Sequence" is a look at one of the big actions scenes in the film before it was finalized (i.e., the use of computers, drawings and models is present). It's nice to have this on the disc, though I don't think I'll ever watch it more than once.
Finally there is a theatrical trailer for the up coming Tom Cruise sci-fi flick Minority Report, though the theatrical trailer for Behind Enemy Lines is conspicuously missing.
What can I say? I'm a sucker for action movies like Behind Enemy Lines. It's patriotic, it's silly, it's explosive, it stars Owen Wilson. Easily worth a rental, though in my case this baby is going in my permanent DVD collection.
Behind Enemy Lines is found innocent on account of its bustling love for America! Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Director John Moore and Editor Martin Smith
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