HPPUB MOVIE REVIEW of Behind Enemy Lines


Title: Behind Enemy Lines

Release Date:  2001 (Nov 30)

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about 110 Minutes

MPAA Rating:  R

Distributor and Production Company:  20th Century Fox; Davis

Director; Writer: John Moore; David Veloz, Zak Penn


Producer: John Davis

Cast:   Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, Joaquim de Almeida, Daivd Keith, Olek Krupa

Technical:  Panavision, digital

Relevance to HPPUB site: international politics


 This film came out just as the war crimes tribunals charging Slobodan Milosevic with genocide and war crimes, in bis forlorn pursuit of ethnic “glory,: were to begin.

  The setup is important. Two Navy pilots take it upon themselves to vary on a surveillance mission, and take photos of they think is evidence of war crimes in Bosnia. Suddenly they are shot down in a dazzling sequence, apparently by Serb anti-aircraft batteries.

   One of the men, with a broken thigh, is executed while his buddy (Burnnett, played by a rather rambunctious and not-exactly-yes-man Owen Wilson) looks for higher ground. The rest of the movie becomes an escape adventure for Burnett.  His commander (Gene Hackman) must wrestle, like any military field grade officer, with international politics. Because the original mission was “illegal” his rescue would undermine NATO peace agreements and might re-inflate the entire region in another Balkan war, possibly with grave consequences even for American national security. But Burnett’s almost impish behavior is justified by his own private belief that he has stumbled upon war crimes that rival those of the Third Reich. In the end, his own actions will help lead to war crimes trials.

   What the film demonstrates, then, is that the Balkan crisis might well have turned out to have the grave implications that the current terrorism crisis of Al Qaeda has. It is not always possible for the general public to sense what overseas crises can really affect them.

   The action scenes go beyond belief – pretty-boy Burnett dancing through a railroad laced with land mines, and sliding down a dam, and surviving a siege of the city of Hac, all almost without a scratch.  The Serbian enemy is shown in a dark, stereotyped way that probably simplifies historical reality. The script, particularly at the beginning, is wooden. But the unit cohesion among these “straight” “good old boys” is well demonstrated.  

   This is held to be a true story. It reminds one of the better known resuce of Air Force pilot Scott O’Grady when shot down forty miles inland in Bosnia, as in his books Basher Five-Two and Return With Honor.   


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