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20th Century Fox
Official Site
Director: John Moore
Producers: John Davis and Alex Blum
Written by: Jim Thomas, John Thomas, David Veloz, Zak Penn
Cast: Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Joaquim de Almeida, David Keith

Rating: out of 5

You know those days when you find yourself sitting around, watching TV, and one of those commercials comes on that shows beautiful mountains, the ocean rushing past, stirring music plays, and some of the impressive hardware of the United States Armed Forces swoops by, quickly followed by a pastiche of shots showing our noble men and women in uniform, when it suddenly ends. And you think, “That was way too short. I’d love to see that expanded into a full-length movie.”

Well, your dreams have been answered, and it’s called BEHIND ENEMY LINES, a true love letter to the Armed Forces. First-time director John Moore’s background is in corporate commercials, but I think his client would have been better served by a movie that was not only unfailingly patriotic in showing the Navy in a good light, but was actually worth seeing.

The worst part has to be the soundtrack—the soaring heights of exquisite rapture that accompany Lt. Burnett’s (Wilson) every act, the cheesy suspense music that punctuates scenes not otherwise suspenseful, and the trite pop music that tells you we’re number one and we rock! Laughter when the music kicks in is not the desired effect for most action movies.

Then, of course, something must be said about the plot. During the war in Bosnia, on Christmas Day, two American pilots (in one fighter) are shot down while on recon over the Serbian demilitarized zone. One heroic pilot (Wilson) runs continuously for days with only six ounces of water and no food. (Don’t worry, Coca-Cola in a shiny plastic bottle shows up to save the day at one point—did I mention it’s war-torn Serbia?—it’s even better than water!) One heroic admiral (Hackman) decides, after much soul-searching, that saving one blond, clean-cut man under his command from the uniformly dark-haired Serbs is more important than any peace process could be, especially one that isn’t perfect. Hundreds of Serbs (etc.), who’ve been at war for five years, fail to hit an American 40 feet away using machine guns and tanks, enabling him to be rescued, cue pop song.

If telling you that plot ruined the movie for you, you wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway. Even tear-jerkers are usually not this clumsy and blatant in their emotional manipulation.

To be fair, the actors all do fine jobs in their various roles. I must commend Hackman for his incredible ability to keep a straight face while intoning Admiral Reigart’s hackneyed dialogue. Given that he was playing an Energizer bunny as Boy Scout, Wilson also does a creditable job, and the Serbs are all as surly and evil as you could possibly desire in a propaganda cartoon. A couple of the action scenes also worked well (except for the music), and the depiction of landmines as force rather than flame explosions was a nice touch of realism.

If my cynicism about over-the-top patriotism confuses or enrages you, see this movie right away and take your buddies. It’s meant for you. The rest of us will gaze sadly at the box office returns that may well turn this feature-length commercial into a hit. I find it insulting. I fear America may love it.

—Reed Oliver

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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