ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  john moore

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  action

LENGTH  -  106 minutes

RELEASED  -  30 november 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  20th century fox

OFFICIAL SITE  -  behind enemy lines

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $40,000,000
behind enemy lines - a shot from the film


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a navy pilot is shot down over enemy territory and struggles to survive the relentless pursuit of a ruthless secret police enforcer, a deadly tracker, and countless hostile troops. with time running out, the injured pilot's commanding officer goes against orders to carry out a desperate rescue mission.

lt. burnett's (owen wilson) call sign is "longhorn." wilson graduated from the university of texas, whose mascot is the longhorn, in 1991.


picture from behind enemy lines

picture from behind enemy lines

picture from behind enemy lines


two out of four possible stars

Call it top gun for 2001, this film seeks to create a war thriller with some MTV thrown into it. And there's enough patriotic snafu in it to satisfy any war nut. First off, the filmmakers should be complimented in creating a terrific first shot for this film. It's of a person planting a tree in a very muddy field. The colors are all washed out and it's in slow motion, with a little mood music thrown in. The shot doesn't have full meaning until later in the film, but for a start, the short scene works very well. The film then jumps right into the story with a little comedy and the usual military banter, setting up the plot. Unfortunately, the film spends just a few moments introducing the character before it sets out on the plot road.

And during the rest of the film, not a lot of information is given about the characters. After a creative beginning, the rest of the film passes almost like an MTV video. Lots of hand-held camera work and a lot of shaking. This isn't the "Law & Order" type of camera work either, where the camera sort of bobs up and down slowly, making you think its a documentary. With Behind Enemy Lines the camera work can easily give a viewer a headache. And seeing the shaky scenes on the big screen seems to compound the problem. Though I suspect this all stems from the MTV approach to filmmaking that the director took with this picture. Although it is a fresh take on the war film, it still is a bit extreme. Ironically, the handheld camera work was so shaky at times that the footage looked like it came from an actual news crew.

This realism is a shot in the film's favor and was probably due in part though to the locations where the movie was filmed. Shot somewhere in Eastern Europe, where the film is supposed to take place, the burned out buildings and decrepit villages shown look like they were still in the middle of a war. Whether credit should be given to the cinematographer for finding the locations or to the production designer for creating such realistic sets, the film's authenticity is a plus. Unfortunately, these filmmakers didn't feel it necessary to include any more than a tiny amount of back story and personal information for the main characters. When the action begins, not much is known about the main characters, other than their rank in the military and their overall disposition.

Hackman's character is a hard-assed Navy man with thirty years of experience under his belt and little patience for people who don't take American freedom seriously. Wilson's character is the usual funny-man hero type who seems to show up in just about every movie about the military. And if he's not the main character, he's the supporting comic relief. The filmmakers didn't need to spend a half an hour on the histories of these people, but a little bit more information on their characters would have been appreciated. As it stands, the film kind of passes over any "deep" information about any of the personalities. Aside from some deep glances from Gene Hackman, this film is mostly about explosions and cool camera shots. In fact, sometimes these camera moves overpowered the story of the film. Sometimes it was all about the way the movie was filmed, that mattered.

And really, this film's main draw is in its high powered entertainment value. It is definitely an action film and doesn't try to become any sort of "thinker's" action movie. Most of the film concentrates on the physical situation of the characters and aside from a few thought provoking phrases, most of the film deals with getting Owen Wilson's character out of the mud of Eastern Europe after his jet goes down. It seems that for much of the time, this film resembles a documentary more than a fictional film in that the characters seems distant and obscure for much of the film. This was probably a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers. Why load your film up with dramatic background information if the people in the audience have paid to see your movie mainly for the explosions?

That's not to say that the performances weren't worth-while though. In fact, the actors in this film did justice to the script and story with their portrayals. It's hard to find fault with any of Gene Hackman's performances and his character in this film is no exception. Owen Wilson also gives a credible performance with a suitable amount of anguish over his situation and enough emotional outbursts to make his character believable. Also giving a good performance was Gabriel Macht who shared the cockpit of a fighter jet with Owen's character. Although his time on screen is brief in the film, he gives a solid performance.

One of the best performances in the film though comes from the man who plays the bad guy, Vladimir Mashkov. He plays the assasin sent to take care of Wilson's character. Although the character has a weak motivation, Mashkov plays it strong and is a dynamic part of the cast. And overall, people who see this movie should be prepared for the standard type action fare associated with most war movies. It doesn't have the brains of 3 Kings, but its action sequences are uniquely shot and creative. The realism is also a plus for this film. Don't go to this film expecting Shakespeare and it'll be an enjoyable experience.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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