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Lt Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson) is a top naval fighter-jet navigator who prefers flying combat missions to passive observing from the aircraft carrier stationed in the Adriatic during the Bosnian civil war. His decorated hero superior, Admiral Reigart (Gene Hackman), considers him trouble and sends him and pilot Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht) on a Christmas reconnaissance mission. Flying into a no-go zone, they photograph a terrible secret, but are shot down on their way back and eject – to be stuck behind enemy lines. Reigart is under intense political pressure to sit on his hands while a peace treaty is negotiated, but his conscience won’t be silenced. His choice is to risk his career and go rescue - or sit.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although the story and the structure is along fairly classic chase genre lines, Behind Enemy Lines excels at what it sets out to do, proving that similar stories can be repeated and still excite us. With its sombre Bosnian civil war (ethnic hate war, to be precise) setting, the film gains a lot of traction – not just for its location settings or proximity in time, but for its backdrop of a war that has none of the relative simplicities of say World War 2, where good West foght bad Nazis for personal freedom and human rights. Here, the issues are muddy and unclear, the allegiances and agendas are complex and international diplomacy a convoluted quagmire – especially for soldiers like Admiral Reigart. The injection of cinematic devices – zooms, fast dissolves, jump cuts, slow-mo, and others – is welcome because they are used to serve a purpose in telling the story. They are married to excellent cinematography and production design, making the film visually fascinating. Dramatically, Behind Enemy Lines retains its tension, like one of the many wires that connect dozens of landmines in one of the film’s spectacular stunt sequences. Owen Wilson, usually residing in comedic characters, is outstanding as the action hero, a slightly left of field figure and all the better for that. Hackman is solid in a character he keeps reinventing, and Don Davis does great things with the score, sometimes using music as sound effects. In all, a great action entertainment for those who like army bravado served in tough, cinematic doses.

Review by Louise Keller:
You know that feeling just before take off, when a plane goes faster and faster on the runway? When speed takes us beyond our comfort zone, and we feel a complex mix of thrills, excitement and trepidation? That is the sensation I felt throughout Behind Enemy Lines, a powerful hard-hitting war drama of non stop tension and gripping action. We are transported from the safety of the marine base to the terrifying sequence in mid air when the pilots find themselves unexpectedly engaged and locked into a deadly game of missile tag. Owen Wilson astounds with his range – from slapstick comedy to intense drama – he is credible and likeable as the reluctant hero, who meets the challenge and survives against the odds. He has one of those really interesting faces which looks different from every angle: his good looking features are counter-balanced by an identifying nose bone structure. Gene Hackman's solid presence as Chris' commanding officer grounds the film; I never tire of watching Hackman's skill at his craft, combining the right mix of toughness with human vulnerability. It's an impressive debut for director John Moore, who manages to sustain the tension throughout. Spectacular wintry vistas, and unforgiving harsh terrain are shown off by striking aerial cinematography, which includes hand held documentary-style camera work during the battle sequence in the fictitious town of Hac. Great production design against the elements: ice and snow needed to be transported from London, when Slovakia's winter became the warmest on record. Beyond Enemy Lines is a satisfying and non-trivial film that tells a human story set on an only-too-real war background in a compelling and enthralling way.

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CAST: Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, Joaquim De Almeida, David Keith, Olek Krupa, Gabriel Macht

DIRECTOR: John Moore

PRODUCER: John Davis

SCRIPT: David Veloz, Zak Penn (story by James Thomas & John Thomas)


EDITOR: Paul Martin Smith GBFE

MUSIC: Don Davis


RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 31, 2002

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: July 21, 2002

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