I had relatively high hopes for 2001’s Behind Enemy Lines. On paper it looks like it should be pretty good. A pilot gets shot down ‘behind enemy lines’ and needs to find his way back to safety while avoiding enemy soldiers who are looking for him. It should be a ‘switch-your-brain-off-at-the-door’ roller coaster ride of an action movie, with adrenaline fuelled chase sequences, shooting, fighting, and lots of explosions.
But it isn’t really that.
Nor is it a slower-moving tension-filled thought-provoking movie about the horrors of war.
It doesn’t really know what it wants to be, but it’s definitely too cliched and frivolous to be dealing with subject matters like genocide. Which is something it tries to do. Very badly.
I thought my biggest issue would be trying to accept Owen Wilson as an action hero but to be fair he does his best with what he’s got to work with, which is basically nothing. More disappointing is Gene Hackman, who should elevate this abomination into something more palatable, but who instead offers up one of the more prosaic performances of his career as a cardboard cut-out of a generic commanding officer.
The film is just one misstep after another from start to finish and when you think it can’t descend any further into hackneyed stereotypes and jingoistic storytelling, it manages to find new levels of unpalatable awfulness.
It was the debut of director John Moore, who has done nothing of value since and is also the idiot that managed to make the only unwatchable Die Hard film.
Score for Christmasishness
It starts off promisingly – the hero (if indeed Owen Wilson’s character deserves to be labelled as such) and his ill-fated partner are sent off on a reconnaissance mission on Christmas Day. There are some decorations on the naval ship on which they serve. Later, as the mission goes wrong (mostly thanks to Wilson’s character actively disobeying orders to satisfy his own ego), we see Hackman’s character informed of the disaster as he eats Christmas dinner in the mess hall. And then Christmas is never alluded to again, despite the timeline of the movie occurring over, at most, a few days.