review for Behind Enemy Lines on AllMovie

Behind Enemy Lines (2001)
by Josh Ralske review

Behind Enemy Lines is a slick, fast-paced, and brainless action movie that greatly benefits from the presence of Owen Wilson as Navy aviator Chris Burnett, in an unfamiliar action hero role. Wilson's quirky gooniness is an asset in comedies like Meet the Parents and it makes the gung-ho stupidity of this script much more palatable. Gene Hackman is also on hand, but has little to do as Burnett's taciturn commanding officer. Director John Moore made a name for himself directing Sega commercials, and his debut feature has a sort of cartoonish video game energy to it. Moore throws all sorts of visual trickery into the mix, at one point slowing things down to a crawl to show the millisecond-by-millisecond impact of a land mine explosion on an anonymous Serbian soldier. There's also fast motion, freeze frames, and a protagonist who survives a constant barrage of explosions and enemy gunfire, as though he were a video game hero with multiple lives to spend. All the whistles and bells work to best effect in the early sequence in which Burnett and his pilot Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht) try to avoid being shot down, momentarily dodging heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles in a truly thrilling high-speed chase sequence. Once Burnett is on the ground, however, the outcome seems a foregone conclusion. All the stylized mayhem brings up an unfavorable comparison to Three Kings, which melded visually innovative action and real-world politics in a much more convincing and thought-provoking manner. The sociopolitical morass that Burnett drops down into has little to do with who he is or why he's there. The filmmakers expend so little time and thought exploring the actual situation in the former Yugoslavia, that the film could just as easily take place in outer space.