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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.22%
Worth A Look24.44%
Average: 10.37%
Pretty Bad: 21.48%
Total Crap: 21.48%

9 reviews, 81 user ratings

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Behind Enemy Lines
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by Daniel Kelly

"John Moore and Owen Wilson deliver a neat action yarn."
4 stars

John Moore’s “Behind Enemy Lines” is more or less a completely forgotten cinematic quantity these days, the 2001 actioner having been thrown into genre limbo some years back. That’s a pity. With a sturdy cast and some stylishly executed set pieces at its disposal the film is actually a minor joy, goofy at times for sure, but filled with gusto and even a sense of real emotional sincerity when it comes to depicting the war crimes which occurred in Bosnia during the 90s. It’s certainly worthier than its non-existent legacy suggests.

Fighter pilot Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson) has decided to bring his time in the military to a close, frustrated by the lack of action he’s been receiving. This news isn’t well received by Admiral Leslie Reigart (Gene Hackman), a superior who views Chris’s choice as a supreme waste of talent. In a fit of bitterness Reigart assigns Chris and his co-pilot Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht) to the undesirable Christmas Eve shift, the pair forced to tool up and perform some photographic recon over Bosnia. After their camera snaps some elicit sights when moving over a supposed no fly zone, the duo are shot done by a mob of angered Serbs. Stackhouse is promptly executed, with Burnett forced to go on the run, too deep in enemy territory for a simple retrieval. As a result he is informed that he must reach a safe zone for extraction, a guilt ridden Reigart spearheading the mission. However the Serbs aren’t willing to let Burnett escape so easily, an assassin (Vladimir Maskov) being sent to dispatch the stranded soldier, and ensure that he never makes it back home.

Owen Wilson is surprisingly well cast in “Behind Enemy Lines”, the laid-back comic convincing nicely as an isolated man on the run. Wilson’s inherent likability serves wonders in keeping the audience onboard with Burnett’s struggle, but the performer also delves deep into his own dramatic pockets and produces some startlingly astute goods. Wilson captures the character’s desperation perfectly, and creates an undertone of simmering regret concerning his deceased colleague. There’s an edge to his portrayal that viewers won’t expect, and it ultimately makes me a little upset that Wilson hasn’t attacked more material akin to this over the last decade. Gene Hackman is predictably dependable as Reigart, forging a decent vocal relationship with Wilson over the course of the movie. He’s hardly stretching himself, but Hackman still brings a subtle hint of remorse and enough humanity to make the role work. The villains are all painted in a somewhat faceless fashion, although Vladimir Maskov still oozes threat as the ghost like killer tailing Burnett through the frosty wilderness.

The musical score courtesy of Don Davis is intrusive at times, but during other moments it sustains a level of necessary pomp and vigour. “Behind Enemy Lines” certainly isn’t a subtle picture in its design, but then again John Moore could never be accused of being a subtle filmmaker. The project is positively brimming with fast cuts and aggressive action, the director deploying his speedy editing techniques and deft touch for onscreen chaos very effectively. Moore is undoubtedly a talented hired hand, his eye for slick production design and atmospheric visuals virtually faultless. Moore’s technical skill is complimented by a screenplay with more heart than most, the writers bringing a believable soul to the characters and a sense of stern seriousness concerning the abominable genocides seen onscreen. “Behind Enemy Lines” may be chocked with multiplex thrills and spills, but during its quieter and more tentative moments it acts as an oddly acceptable reflection on the darker side of war.

At 106 minutes “Behind Enemy Lines” is agreeably paced, finding a rather naturalistic route to its overblown climax. The action sequences are all accomplished, one in particular involving multiple tripwires providing as much nail biting tension as it does fire and debris. The aforementioned conclusion is over the top in every conceivable fashion, abandoning logic in favour of some good old fashioned American heroics and booming musical overtones. At this point “Behind Enemy Lines” perhaps becomes a little tough to swallow, especially for those dubious about the real world accuracy of the scene in question.

I have more time for this picture than most, but that’s simply because it’s an underrated and cruelly disregarded flick. The denouement may leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth, but until that juncture “Behind Enemy Lines” is a pretty darn gratifying slice of action cinema. It’s certainly worth tracking down for home entertainment consumption, now nearly 10-years after the fact.

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originally posted: 05/22/11 01:59:36
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell action packed popcorn flick 4 stars
7/21/12 Sean Harrison Who could have imagined Owen Wilson as an action star? 3 stars
5/23/11 Braddock very entertaining movie 4 stars
7/11/09 then came bronson This review has me so pumped I am gonna watch the movie now. lol 2 stars
5/07/09 DK Good film, entertaining, well paced and with enough substance to skate by. 4 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner This movie was Awesome!! Loved It. 5 stars
11/10/07 Alex Köhler Soooo idiotic and unrealistic, even for Hollywood. I served in Bosnia- S.F.O.R. and ... 1 stars
5/01/07 Aaron Johnson i thought it was a really cool movie, one of hackman's best performances since CRIMSON TIDE 5 stars
3/25/07 action movie fan exciting suspensful action movie-one of the best of 2001 4 stars
12/28/06 William Goss A marginally entertaining action flick, perfectly worthy of an afternoon on cable. 4 stars
12/18/06 EAG owen wilson is so hott and this movie rocks! 5 stars
8/30/06 Jarkko Perälä Jingoistic crap 1 stars
7/24/06 BuB It was a tense thriller wicth i enjoyed 5 stars
8/23/05 ES Better when it was called 'BAT 21' 3 stars
7/30/05 bOB THE HOb AFTER reading the movie reviews i realized once again how clueless many people are. It is 4 stars
6/13/05 Sam Its brill and owen is fit 5 stars
6/08/05 JD This movie stinks, it's totally unrealistic, the characters suck, very painful movie. 1 stars
11/17/04 puchacz pilot i like it god damnit!!! 5 stars
8/18/04 T.S. Kendall Great entertainment. Stays focused on storyline. Owen's best showing. 4 stars
5/31/04 Nobody somewhat cliche, but entertaining 3 stars
12/20/03 aren'tweallannonymous the movie was good, but mocks matrix in slo-mo(kinda gay) 4 stars
11/06/03 Debbie The action scenes were great, if a little unrealistic... hey, it is a movie, folks! Owen Wi 4 stars
9/16/03 Mike Pruzie I liked the technical realism. The characters seemd genuine. 4 stars
4/27/03 RP Excellent: I served and knew the facts; these were the facts! 5 stars
4/17/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik (sarcastically) Go America! 1 stars
1/19/03 charlie Hardly believable 2 stars
1/03/03 Annonoymous you all suck at rating movies 5 stars
12/02/02 Jim Wilson & Hackman are entertaining; worth seeing for the final helicopters vs. Serbs battle. 4 stars
8/19/02 Vikram Munikoti Awesome...edge-of-your-seat thriller 5 stars
7/13/02 Jim Bedford The Magnificant Seven Return yet again 5 stars
7/05/02 ! G000000D 4 stars
5/12/02 Matt This movie gives cliches a bad name 1 stars
4/29/02 burt this movie was one of the best i've ever seen in theaters, FUCKING AWESOME 5 stars
4/27/02 Kelly Murphy Good war movie! I love Owen Wilson movies! 5 stars
4/25/02 Ashley Broussard This movie was great..i loved definitely buying it&no one's borrowing it 5 stars
4/04/02 lauren mccreight the ending is so bad thougth i was gonna cry.... 2 stars
2/26/02 ownerofdajoint goodtimerockandrollerkindaflick 4 stars
2/21/02 Jon Fuckin Awesome Movie and awesome soundtrack, owen wilson rulz, i also like the bosnian jay 5 stars
2/21/02 adsfadf asdfadf 5 stars
2/18/02 Carla not bad... just kinda unrealistic at times... good suspense 3 stars
2/15/02 Tim Excellent 5 stars
2/11/02 Vic Only watch of you like war action movies. Very realystic setting. I have been in Bosnia! 4 stars
2/10/02 Owen Wilson My film rocks. Best film this year! 5 stars
2/07/02 Jimbo Ending is very suss but overall a good flick 4 stars
2/05/02 Jerk-OFF-reviewer I love this movie its great. Sorry the other guys have soem problem and cant enjoy it. 5 stars
1/23/02 mikkogwapo the entertaaaaaaaaaaaining...thats the bottom line..isn't it?..... 5 stars
1/16/02 Andrew Carden Quite Good...Hackman's Performance Was Excellent. 4 stars
1/15/02 en f~##ing all right 5 stars
1/10/02 malcolm cool shit, Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman? good enough for me 4 stars
1/08/02 Splard good damn movie, what the fuck is wrong with you sell out movie review bitches 5 stars
1/03/02 Mercury, because it's cool Sorta exagerated, especially at the end, Otherwise, there's a lot of action and suspense. 4 stars
1/02/02 Kelly Young This movie rocked my world 5 stars
12/27/01 Gene Hackman is a fucking hottie. My name is Bill Dawson. I teach Chemistry at Midview High School. If there are any hot guys out there. 458-5327 is my # 1 stars
12/20/01 David Snow I can't believe crap like this still gets made. 1 stars
12/17/01 Mills Not that Bad, I've seen better 4 stars
12/16/01 spaceworm Gene Hackman was in it, so it can't suck complete ass. 2 stars
12/14/01 Private Pyle Could have used more action 3 stars
12/13/01 G-Man Best action movie since........COPLAND!! 1 stars
12/11/01 Jason This was one of the worst movies I have ever seen... 1 stars
12/11/01 Xalt Flaming propaganda delivered by greedy suits. 1 stars
12/11/01 several commas good stuff 5 stars
12/10/01 Trunks You guy's suck I love this movie go suck on a loy pop with mommy 5 stars
12/10/01 Renee Blandford this was an awesome movie, no matter what the critics say. 5 stars
12/10/01 Nastaran FUCKING AWESOME....what more can you say? 5 stars
12/09/01 Marcus Where's my AK47? I'd get the fucker! lol What crap 1 stars
12/09/01 derek deems this film was absolutly terrible. it tries to be the stupidest film ever made. 1 stars
12/08/01 Jim Crap. Crap. Crap. Iron Eagle meets Missing in Action 1 stars
12/08/01 rutt13 entertaining, if a little melodramatic 4 stars
12/07/01 leon russom great action flick 5 stars
12/06/01 Dr. Zachary Smith on numerous close-ups of mr. wilson, plaque was clearly visible on his 2 front teeth. 2 stars
12/04/01 Obi Wan What happened?Movie starts very good, but I expected Marines in end & got HollyWood! 3 stars
12/02/01 marayqw sanhao 5 stars
12/02/01 ajay Owen can only be *one* character which is lame. The ending is so hollywood, it's laughable 3 stars
12/02/01 Superdave Ending sucks, but the first 3/4 are really good 4 stars
12/02/01 The Boy In The Designer Bubble Anything with Owen Wilson is bound to be bad! 1 stars
12/01/01 Mr Math Oh man, this is cheese whiz. 1 stars
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  30-Nov-2001 (PG-13)



Directed by
  John Moore

Written by
  Zak Penn

  Gene Hackman
  Owen Wilson
  David Keith
  Gabriel Macht
  Shane Johnson
  Vladimir Mashkov

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