Directed by John Moore, Starring Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman & Gabriel Macht.
The first in a troika of 'US in combat' movies (the others being 'Blackhawk Down', and 'We Were Soldiers'), the release of 'Behind Enemy Lines' eerily coincides with a swell in US patriotism and ongoing military action. In this case substitute Bosnia for Afghanistan where bored F-18 navigator Chris Burnett (Wilson) decides to end his seven-year stint in the Air Force.
With the 'Cincinnati (not Dayton) Accord' signed and the US winding down its involvement in the Baltics, Burnett endures endless downtime with pilot buddy Stackhouse (Macht) on an aircraft carrier. Having incurred the wrath of the ship's commander (Hackman) with his complaints about lack of action and the drudgery of peacekeeping, Burnett is given a photographic mission over a demilitarised zone. But when Burnett coaxes Stackhouse to stray off the flight path, they discover evidence of Serb soldiers digging mass graves. Soon the F-18 is fired upon, forcing the US duo to eject and leaving Burnett with the fight of his life on his hands.
Those expecting a gritty look at the horrors and compromises of combat would be better served renting the likes of 'Cross of Iron' or 'Full Metal Jacket'. With its insufferable use of rock music in its opening stages, a rogue pilot who becomes a hero and stern jawed sentiments all round, 'Behind Enemy Lines' plays more like a recruitment video for the US military than any serious examination of conflict.
Wilson may - admirably - underplay his role, but you never sense that he's in any real danger: surviving shootouts that would make the A-Team consider a career change and being lucky enough to encounter guerrillas who love rap music and US soft drinks.
Where Moore deserves credit is for two thrilling sequences in Bosnia. The first finds the US crew playing hide and seek with surface to air missiles while the second finds Wilson's character hiding out in a war torn town. Manic, vicious and with stunning visuals, these scenes are the closest 'Behind Enemy Lines' gets to white knuckle hysteria, elsewhere it just runs on auto-pilot with Hackman's no nonsense Admiral putting the life of one man over an entire ceasefire and leading a fatality-free rescue mission.
A movie of its time but one unlikely to stand the test of it.