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Behind Enemy Lines

In War There Are Some Lines You Should Never Cross 

Year: 2001 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Forget what you think you know about action films - Behind Enemy Lines will change the way you look at this genre. With its epic scenes of high-impact excitement, the intensity of its human drama, and the insight of its political agenda, it stands tall as one of the most breathless pieces of film in motion picture history.

Cocksure Navy Pilot Lt. Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson) is introduced as being disillusioned with the American involvement in the Bosnian War, and dreams of commercial flying, where the big bucks are. On a routine reconnaissance mission, Chris disobeys orders and is shot down deep behind enemy lines, with his attackers in hot pursuit. From this point on, the plot takes a backseat to a series of increasingly impressive action set pieces, as Chris mounts a desperate bid for freedom as his comrades yield to red tape, leaving him alone and practically defenceless.

The role of Chris is one that requires exactly the right degree of bravado, subtlety and intelligence, and Wilson pulls this off with gusto. The wonky-nosed star of Zoolander, The Haunting and The Royal Tenenbaums seems entirely comfortable in the role, almost as though he was born to play it. Gene Hackman, ever reliable, provides solid support as the Naval Commander who tries desperately to mount a rescue operation for his downed pilot, but encounters problems at every turn. The villains are the fairly standard rent-an-Eastern-European (see 15 Minutes for further examples of these actors), and yet bring the necessary menace and brutality to their roles.

Behind Enemy Lines is gung-ho, boys-own action of the first order. There are so many action highlights that the film almost appears to be one big highlight throughout. Witness the stunning aerial photography, the incredible "mine sequence" (you'll know it when you see it) and the absolutely superlative climactic shoot-out - you'll never have seen anything like it outside of Hong Kong action films. With influences ranging from John Woo to Luc Besson to John Ford, this is probably the best action film that will ever be made. But don't take my word for it: go see it.

Jakob Hyem

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Screenings of this film:

2001/2002 Summer Term (35mm)
2001/2002 Summer Term (35mm)
2001/2002 Summer Term (35mm)