Hansel goes exploring

Nicholas Conant

Behind Enemy Lines

Directed by John Moore

(Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, Joaquim De Almeida, David Keith)


A man sprints toward a helicopter that is coming to save his life. Suddenly, the chopper flies away and the man, knowing he is screwed, crumbles to his knees and cries, “I’m right here. I’m right here. Damn it. Why God? Damn it.”

A serious, heart-shattering, bring a
tear-to-my-eye-if-I-wasn’t-a-guy moment? Not when the frightened, devastated man is
portrayed by Owen Wilson, whose resume contains more laughs than this paragraph contains hyphens. In fact, he is just too funny for this particular film.

Behind Enemy Lines‘ drama is about a man in a dangerous situation forced to depend on himself. How original. Owen Wilson plays Lt. Chris Burnett, a Navy pilot who is shot down over Bosnia and, with an army hunting him down, is on the run for freedom. With Wilson in the lead role, it becomes a more of a survival comedy than a drama.

One minute the audience is laughing at Wilson’s facial expression, and in the next, it’s seeing the execution of hundreds of
innocent women and children. Even when it doesn’t try, the movie plays as a comedy, and it lacks realism. But, even as a comedy, it doesn’t play well. After all, genocide is just not that funny. It’s like making a Flintstones version of Schindler’s List; it’s just a bad idea.

But it’s not all bad. Director John Moore sits you right next to Burnett when the bullets start flying. The warfare is chaotic, and Moore emphasizes this by employing long, handheld shots. When Wilson runs, the camera runs with him and so does the audience. Trite, but effective. Another cool little trick is when
digital effects are used beautifully to show the inner workings of weapons.

Yeah, Behind Enemy Lines is a lousy film, but my lowbrow side was entertained, more for the fun of its many weaknesses than its few strengths. Good laughs are rare in this world, and Owen Wilson makes me laugh. So I’ll take him where I can find him, even if the vehicle sucks.

-Nicholas Conant


Behind Enemy Lines opens today in theaters nationwide.