With the tragic events of September 11th still etched in the nations mind, and with the conflict in Afghanistan continuing, patriotism in America is at an all time high. While national pride is a great thing at in times like this I am proud to see how our nation has come together to confront a national tragedy and threat to the world, the sad thing is that there are those who would seek to exploit this tragedy for their own personal gains.
I recently heard of a person in New Jersey who was collecting for the fireman’s fund only to be a scam artist who was pocketing the donations. It is sad to note that in a time when Hollywood is saying publicly that they will be cutting down on violent content, and shelving films with sensitive subject matter that some films are released to cash in on a topical subject.
Sadly, the new film “Behind Enemy Lines” falls into this category. I learned that the film was scheduled to be released in a few months time, but thanks to patriotic inspired responses from test audiences, the powers that be decided to release them film quickly in order to take advantage of the patriotic surge in this country.
The film stars Owen Wilson as Lt. Chris Burnett as a top naval navigator who has grown frustrated with his role. Burnett is stationed aboard the carrier Carl Vinsons and is upset that the political climate does not allow him to fly combat missions in Bosnia, as he believes that the American forces are being a police force rather than a combat force and should have a more active role. After seven years in the service, Burnett has decided that he has had enough and plans to return to civilian life after his tour ends in two weeks time.
The news that Burnett is unhappy and plans to leave the Navy does not sit well with the commanding officer, Admiral Reigart, (Gene Hackman) who chastises Burnett for not learning what being a soldier is all about.
Burnett later learns that he is assigned to fly a reconnaissance mission on Christmas Day and is convinced that the Admiral assigned him this role out of spite. Nonetheless, Burnett is happy to be in the air and launches on his mission. It is while on this mission that Burnett encounters something he did not expect and takes ærial photographs of a sensitive and damaging nature to the fragile peace process of the region. Before he can make sense of what he has seen, Burnett is shot down and forced to survive behind enemy lines with a team of soldiers and a deadly tracker hot on his heels determined to silence him at any costs.
What should have been a tense game of cat and mouse combined with political intrigue and director John Moore in favor of an MTV quick cutting style that is difficult to watch quickly abandons character development. There are numerous shots of Burnett running, jumping, and fleeing for his life, some with Matrix style stop motion effects, but they are poorly setup and executed in such a way that there is no tension nor excitement for the audience. Worse yet, a solid and veteran actor like Hackman is reduced to a few gruff lines, and very little substance. We know next to nothing about his character motivations and why he takes the actions that he does in the films closing moments. The same can be said for Wilson who makes a game effort in the physical parts, but he is given little material to work with and as a result audiences will have a hard time accepting him a role such as this that is different from his usual comedic roles.
To make matters even worse, the bad guys are little more than cartoon villains as there
actions are very unclear. We know they want Burnett dead as they want to recover his photographs and silence him. However, the reasons behind what they did are never clearly explained and they should all have had “generic bad guys” stamped on their foreheads, as they could not have been more uninspired.
As if the previous was not bad enough, many scenes of the film have a jerky quality to them as if they were shot with a hand held camera. Even a film such as “The Blair Witch Project” had hand held shots that were much easier to follow, and this was done with a budget significantly less than “Behind Enemy Lines”. I love a good action film as much as the next person and I do not expect a top notch story, acting, or originality in this genre, but this film was so uninspired and bad, it is difficult to find anything positive to say about it. I have to wonder how an actor as accomplished and talented as Gene Hackman allowed himself to be drawn into this mess of a film. There are some films that have so little to offer that they should have never been released and the bad editing of this film combined with the numerous problems I mentioned previously suggest that this film was rushed to theaters when it could have, with some better editing and a few reshoots been a much better film. Sadly, it seems that the people behind this film saw a quick buck over quality and gave audiences a turkey.