More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.06%
Worth A Look25%
Average: 10.29%
Pretty Bad: 21.32%
Total Crap: 21.32%

9 reviews, 82 user ratings

Latest Reviews

To the Ends of the Earth by Jay Seaver

Wood Job! by Jay Seaver

News of the World by Rob Gonsalves

Promising Young Woman by Rob Gonsalves

Wonder Woman 1984 by Rob Gonsalves

Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone by Rob Gonsalves

Mank by Rob Gonsalves

Wander Darkly by Rob Gonsalves

Stand In, The by Rob Gonsalves

MLK/FBI by alejandroariera

subscribe to this feed

Behind Enemy Lines
[] Buy posters from this movie
by MP Bartley

"And the Oscar for worst Saving Private Ryan shaky-cam ripoff goes to..."
2 stars

Apart from reviewing movies at this very website, I also work at my local cinema. The main benefit being that I get to see films for free, which means that after seeing this film I was only annoyed. Because if I'd had to pay to see it I'd have been bloody furious.

Behind Enemy Lines has the dubious honour of being one of the most witless, ineptly directed, insultingly stupid films I've had to see lately.

It's the kind of film that when you're watching just throws up memories of better films that it rips off. Sorry,borrows from. For example, the central theme of one man being rescued= Saving Private Ryan. The Bosnian-Serb conflict= Saviour. Gene Hackman in a starring role= Bat 21. Sped-up, shaky battle scenes= Saving Private Ryan, Three Kings, Enemy At The Gates etc. Now, the majority of war films resemble others in the genre in some shape or form. It's an unavoidable pitfall in such a wide genre. But Behind Enemy Lines doesn't have a single original feature.

Owen Wilson takes the main role as US Pilot Chris Burnett. You know the kind of Pilot we mean, cocky, flip, likes playing football on the runway, talks about trivial stuff like rock stars and jello. But damn it don't you know, he's only flip cos he wants some action. But he's not getting any keeping the peace over in Yugoslavia so he's about to kiss the airforce goodbye, which annoys his commander, Admiral Leslie Riegart (Gene Hackman). It annoys him because, Goddamnit he's seen action (probably in Bat 21 which is Behind Enemy Lines main, ahem, influence)and he knows it's not something to experience on a whim. Can you see the extent of character development we're going to have here folks?

So to teach Burnett a lesson, Riegart sends him on a recon mission where Burnett and co-pilot Stackhouse see a group of soldiers having a mass burial and take photos. Unsurprisingly, they're not too pleased at this so they shoot Burnett and Stackhouse down killing Stackhouse in the process. And that's the extent of the plot as Burnett waits for Riegart to organise a rescue attempt. Rarely has a film been so succintly summed in it's title, as Burnett runs around, gets shot at, runs some more, gets caught up in some explosions, runs some more, meets an Elvis Impersonator (no really), shoots some people, then goes home. Sorry, did I spoil the ending there? I hope so because the more people that avoid this, the better. I seriously think this film had a detrimental effect on my mental processes at several points.For example:

1)By the end we realize that Burnett has gone in a complete circle.Why?Why the hell don't they tell him to stay put? Why do they let him run around in a war-torn country causing no end of chaos when he COULD HAVE STAYED EXACTLY WHERE HE WAS?!?

2)And just what kind of Pilot is Burnett anyway? He gives away the kind of information to random civilians he wouldn't and shouldn't tell his family!

3)At one point pursued by the enemy, Burnett falls into a pit.We know he's alive, but he's being watched on satellite link-up by Riegart.So why do we have 5 minutes of Riegart demanding to know if he's alive and what's happening? Are we really supposed to be caught up in the tension of wondering if another character is going to realize something that WE ALREADY KNOW?

4)And there's more.Burnett escapes at one point by swopping his uniform with that of a dead soldier. The enemy realize this and send the Americans a video of this dead guy with a helmet on, claiming it's Burnett. And they belive it. I'll just say it again because it's so idiotic it defies belief. A room full of American intelligence (including an Admiral!)watch a video where they can't see the bodies face and assume it's Burnett! No-one questions it! Christ these are supposed to be the people running the current campaign in Afghanistan!

To make it worse we then cut to a scene where an enemy soldier walking away turns in slo-mo and takes off his balaclava, revealing himself to be...yes, Owen Wilson! Yes, alright we know! We know it's him! It would have been worth a big dramatic scene if it wasn't him, but Matt Damon say.
Frankly, Burnett shouldn't worry as he appears to be being pursued by the worst shots in cinema history. At one point an enemy soldier shoots at him at point blank range.But misses. Because Burnett ducks. Yes, Burnett ducks out of the way of a point blank shot. It's like Monty Python Saves Private Brian.

And this sense of idiocy just extends throughout the film.You may have noticed that throughout this review I've just referred to 'the enemy'.To be honest, looking back I have no idea whether Burnett is being pursued by Serbs, Muslims, Croats or Britney Spears backing troupe. And this signals the amount of interest that the film-makers have in the political situation there.You can tell when he meets a group of friendly soldiers because they drink coca-cola.No doubt they'd stop off at McDonalds if they had a chance.

Where Saving Private Ryan threw up questions about whether it was right to risk a group of lives for one and had an ambigious tone about warfare, Behind Enemy Lines has no such doubts. Sure, there's a scene where Hackman is informed by a UN official about the danger a rescue attempt for one man would be to the peace process, but that's just a cursory nod to a supposed intelligence behind the film. It practically screams "Ye-hah!Let's go get our star-striped, clean cut boy and to hell with the natives!". And I lost count of the amount of times that Hackman announces gravely to someone "Let's go get our boy".

This is the kind of part Hackman could pass off while getting up in the middle of the night to take a piss, it's that thin. Owen Wilson is always a likeable presence and makes a change to the usual muscle heads in this kind of film, but he can't do anything with a part this badly written. His reaction to most setbacks being a John Boy Walton-esque "Goddamn!". Or at one point a distinctly funny "You've got to be shitting me!". Did they want John McEnroe for this part originally?

The best you could say for Behind Enemy Lines is that it's technically competent. The shooting down scene is particularly well done, and Wilson being caught in a deserted industrial estate loaded with tripwires does manage to make hopscotch look vaguely exciting.But how thrilling does a technically competent film sound? An average episode of The X-Files is technically competent.

The film ends with a caption that due to Burnetts photographic evidence a warlord was brought to justice.A fictional warlord.Quite why it ends with this caption is a mystery. Perhaps to bring some kind of reassurance that war is right, while we're involved in Afghanistan. Or perhaps it's more a sign of the lack of intelligence involved in trying to make a film about a politically and religiously tense situation. Can you remember the scene in 'Young Frankenstein' where Marty Feldman calls a brain "Abby Normal"? I think I know what that brain is doing now. It's making films like this. And it needs stopping.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 01/20/02 04:13:01
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

12/20/18 morris campbell not bad popcorn movie IMHO 4 stars
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
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  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

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast