Movie Reviews
3:15 pm
Fri December 7, 2001

Behind Enemy Lines

Another "B" film enjoyable enough on a dark winter day but not great enough to outlast the endless conflict in an inscrutable Mid-East...

"O ye mortal engines, whose rude throats

Th' immortal Jove's great clamor counterfeit..."

Shakespeare?s general Othello couldn?t have better described the sounds and energy of "Behind Enemy Lines" -- the planes, tanks, and guns of the mightiest army on earth are gleefully displayed, along with the patented Gene Hackman sneer, for the pleasure of beating the crap out of bad-guy Bosnian Serbs (even the movie can?t adequately clarify who?s who in that mighty mosh-pit of hatred).

Satellite technology imaging the movements of the hero and his pursuers is downright hypnotic; Owen Wilson is believable enough as the "Most-Dangerous-Game" kind of guy for me to accept his headlining the film over the durable Hackman.

The film is not entirely a showcase for technology: it pounds home one of the enduring themes of western civilization, that the individual is worth more than gun ships and careers, that saving one life is more important than saving face against the world?s weighty politics.

Because director John Moore comes from commercials, I expect he?ll eventually figure out that literate audiences long ago lost their patience with chase scenes where the hero evades innumerable rounds of ammunition or where a trained assassin can?t kill a guy squarely in the crosshairs. I need not even comment on the outrageous stereotyping of the Bosnian bad guys. When Moore clears his head of cliches, he?ll be a commendable action director.

However Cinematographer Brendan Galvin, who has three TV credits and two other small films, does impressive work here -? he bends the color into black, white, and gray in ways that reflect my own impression of the bleak, desolate, and ravaged landscape revived by television today in our Afghan conflict.

Like Hackman?s recent "Heist" and Redford's "Spy

Game
," "Behind Enemy Lines" is another "B" film enjoyable enough on a dark winter day but not great enough to outlast the endless conflict in an inscrutable Mid-East.