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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What's the story?
In BEHIND ENEMY LINES, Navy navigator Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson), is stationed in Bosnia and impatient for action. When he and his partner are sent out on a routine reconnaissance mission on Christmas Day, they stray out of the prescribed area because they see something suspicious. Then they are shot down. All of this is very inconvenient to NATO, which is in the final stages of negotiating a very fragile peace agreement. Burnett tries to stay alive and get to a safe rendezvous spot as his commanding officer, Admiral Reigart (Gene Hackman), tries to direct a rescue mission. Burnett is chased by an assassin through minefields and desolation of all kinds, from ravaged trees to burnt-out cities. Meanwhile, the Admiral has an almost as treacherous struggle as he makes use of the most sophisticated technology to track Burnett's position but is thwarted by politics when he orders a rescue.
Is it any good?
Behind Enemy Lines is an old-fashioned, heart-thumping rescue mission story with about 90-pulse-pounding minutes of non-stop nightmarish action. First-time feature director John Moore masters both the second-by-second intensity of the action sequences and the bleakness of the physical and political landscape. The parallels between the personal, the psychic, and the political are subtly intertwined, and the rousing, send-in-the-Marines finish is especially satisfying.
In the midst of the action, there are dozens of moments filled with quiet power. Hackman, as always, is a joy to watch, doing wonders with the subtle struggle of a by-the-books patriot whose loyalty and sense of honor makes him risk everything, knowing that his career is on the line. Wilson, in his first major dramatic role, does not show much range, but is a very likeable presence as a classic American hero – brave, resourceful, and a little cynical, but everything we would hope for when the time comes. Charles Malick Whitfield is the Marine we all want to rescue us, and David Keith contributes a fine performance as the Admiral's aide.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the complexity of today's military actions, compared to the stark contrast between freedom and tyranny in previous wars (at least as portrayed in most history books and movies). They might want to compare this movie to others like Three Kings (very mature material) and The Longest Day.
- In theaters: November 30, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: April 23, 2002
- Cast: Gabriel Macht, Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson
- Director: John Moore
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: war violence and some language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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