2001, Movies

Behind Enemy Lines (2001, John Moore)

A while ago I read something (perhaps at AV Club) that said this movie was underrated. I decided to “give it another chance,” wrongly thinking I had seen it already.

I can see why some may be kindly disposed to this film, especially in the early going when Wilson represents a certain weariness with foreign entanglements that appeals to a lot of people. And Wilson is good; he’s mostly un-Owen Wison like, which feels like a rather huge accomplishment for him as an actor.

But there are a couple really serious issues with the film.

One problem is that the film is super over-directed. The story is already drastically changed for Hollywood action purposes, but there are a few absurd action movie scenes that wouldn’t have existed in a better film – or would have been filmed more convincingly and edited less confusingly – even one based on a fabricated story like this. (The true story that inspired the film did not involve any of the violence depicted in this movie. But of course.)

Another problems is the typical American jingoism of films of this ilk. Once Wilson’s character’s plane is shot down, it kicks into full gear, with the usual ‘American priorities are the best and right priorities’ and nobody else on the planet matters. (I exaggerate only slightly.) And that’s always hard to take.

Interestingly, Hackman is playing the opposite of the role he played in a very similar film a number of years earlier, Bat*21.

I really don’t know why people think this is underrated.


  • Directed by John Moore
  • Produced by John Davis
  • Screenplay by David Veloz, Zak Penn
  • Story by Jim Thomas, John Thomas
  • Starring:
    • Owen Wilson as Burnett
    • Gene Hackman as Reigart
    • Gabriel Macht as Stackhouse
    • Charles Malik Whitfield as Rodway
    • David Keith as O’Malley
    • Olek Krupa as Lokar
    • Joaquim de Almeida as Piquet
    • Vladimir Mashkov as Sasha
    • Eyal Podell as Petty Officer Kennedy
    • Geoffrey Pierson as Admiral Donnelly
    • Marko Igonda as Bazda
  • Music by Don Davis
  • Cinematography by Brendan Galvin
  • Edited by Paul Martin Smith
  • Production company: Davis Entertainment
  • Distributed by 20th Century Fox
  • Release date: November 30, 2001
  • Running time: 106 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English, Bosnian
  • Budget: $40 million
  • Box office: $92 million

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