Behind Enemy Lines (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/07/2002

Four out of five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Behind Enemy Lines is very loosely based on the true story of pilot Scott O’Grady, who was shot down behind enemy lines in Bosnia, and then rescued by the U.S. military, despite orders to the contrary.

There, however, the similarities end, so what we have here is the fictionalised story of Lt. Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson), who gets shot down behind enemy lines in Bosnia, but also manages to photograph evidence of genocide and illegal troop movements beforehand.

Meanwhile, back aboard his base ship, Gene Hackman plays Admiral Reigart, Burnett’s commanding officer, who defies NATO (in the shape of slimy born-to-play-villains Joaquim Almeida) in order to mount a rescue operation, even though, initially at least, he doesn’t actually like Burnett all that much, what with him being a gung-ho, Top-Gun-loving, smart-mouthed rock-and-roll flyboy and all.

Once Burnett has crash-landed, things become steadily more and more ludicrous. For someone who is meant to be hiding from the enemy because his life depends on it, he certainly seems to spend an awful lot of time shouting and running around in exposed areas.

Similarly, the deadly tracker assigned to hunt Burnett down (Vladimir Mashkov) seems very easily put off by things like streams and rocks.

Other things are equally laughable – the script is full of incredibly cheesy lines (though Wilson has some sort of cheese-related gift, whereby he’s able to take the most ridiculous lines and make them work), and some of the lighting makes Hackman in particular look so yellow that you’d think he was guesting on The Simpsons.

It’s also very irritating to see Sky News get the "most respected news service in England" treatment, but this is a Fox-owned movie, so perhaps that is to be expected.

That said, the film is still immensely enjoyable. It zips along from nail-biting action sequence to nail-biting action sequence (the missile-dodging scenes are an early highlight) and never lets up until its truly bonkers final moments that are guaranteed to raise a smile and maybe even an involuntary cheer.

Similarly, Hackman is always watchable and Wilson proves a surprisingly effective action hero in the everyman mould.

In short then, this can be enjoyed as an all-out action flick or as a so-bad-it’s-good piece of nonsense, but it’s still highly entertaining, despite its many implausibilities. Recommended.

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Behind Enemy Lines (12)
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Content updated: 14/12/2017 13:10

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