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Volume 4, Issue 1                                    University of Houston


'Enemy Lines' appeals to wave of patriotism, but suffers from too many cliches


Behind Enemy Lines

*** (out of five stars)
Directed by John Moore
Starring: Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Gabriel Macht, Joaquim de Almeida

20th Century Fox


By Maurice Bobb
Breaking News Staff

Set in Bosnia, Behind Enemy Lines was originally supposed to be released next year. But because it tested so well with audiences, 20th Century Fox opted to have it in theaters sooner. While the war on terrorism makes it feel a bit outdated, the movie plays to America's need for an easy resolution to conflict in light of the possibility that there is no ending in sight.

Behind Enemy Lines wants to read like Three Kings, but it low crawls through too much familiarity to cut the mustard. Owen Wilson, who plays Lieutenant Chris "Longhorn" Burnett, is a bored naval navigator biding his time on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, a carrier docked in Bosnian waters; he's a cynical soldier who feels as though he's no more than a cop on a beat no one cares about.

In an exchange with co-pilot Lieutenant Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht), Burnett says that everyone thinks they'll get a chance to punch a Nazi in the face at Normandy, but those days are long gone. To put it mildly, Burnett is just itching for some action. In fact, he's so pessimistic about what he's doing and why, that he turns in his letter of resignation in favor of flying stars around on their private jets -- or so he imagines.

As luck would have it, Burnett finally gets his chance when, while flying a routine reconnaissance mission over a demilitarized zone, he photographs Serb soldiers doing bad things and gets shot down. Luckily, both pilots eject to the safety of the cold, uncaring forests in Serb territory.


Owen Wilson has to wait to be rescued in the new military movie, Behind Enemy Lines.

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Burnett is fine after landing, but Stackhouse pulls up lame and Burnett leaves him to call for help. Stackhouse is then found by Serbs looking for fun and is systematically executed at close range, leaving Burnett to fend for himself "behind enemy lines." Now, the once bored naval navigator does the tango between bullets and missiles while waiting for his admiral (played by Gene Hackman) to come to the rescue. But there are important peace talks underway, and Admiral Piquet (Joaquim de Almeida) will let nothing be a detriment to the tenuous cease-fire, including Burnett's life.

From this point, the movie resorts to cliche and laughable predictability as Burnett is transformed before our eyes into a combination of Rambo and Indiana Jones. The film's only saving grace is Wilson's affability, which allows him some latitude in this role. Vladimir Mashkov does a good job as the "tracker" who's so wound up in his mission to dispose of Burnett, you'd think Burnett told him there was no Santa Claus.

John Moore -- who used to shoot commercials -- gets kudos for the action sequences, but after the dazzle disappears, all that's left is the fact that this movie is devoid of substance and surprise. Interestingly enough, the comparison to Three Kings may have been what Moore was shooting for, given the fact that one of the rebels assisting Burnett in his quest to stay among the living was wearing an Ice Cube T-shirt and loved rap music.

Considering the nation's thirst for bang-bang shoot 'em-up movies, Behind Enemy Lines will fare well at the box-office. That said, it won't be long before everyone comes down with a little case of deja-vu, as they realize this film has been done over and over again.
 

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