Movie Review: Behind Enemy Lines (2001)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 2001 war movie starring Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman.

Synopsis: After 7 years in the United States Navy, navigator Chris Burnett has grown bored with the mundane routine, has decided not to re-enlist and is looking forward to a new career in the commercial airline industry. However, things change when his plane is shot down over Bosnia during a reconnaissance mission, his pilot is executed by the Serbian army and he finds himself on the run from soldiers looking to destroy all evidence of the illegal activity Burnett caught on camera.

Who's In It?


I've seen bits and pieces of this movie over the past few years but have never taken the time to watch it in its entirety until this weekend, when I found myself up earlier than the rest of the family and happened to come across it on one of my movie channels.

Even though the movie looked interesting, I had some serious doubts about whether or not I would like it, mostly because of Owen Wilson (who I've never seen in a non-comedic role) being cast as the star. As it turns out, however, it was actually a much better movie than I was expecting it to be.

I think the thing I liked best about this movie was the way it shows (albeit a little dramatically) the political side of war. After Burnett's plane was shot down, a rescue mission seemed like a no-brainer. Yet, the way his admiral (Hackman) kept having his efforts stopped at every turn added to both the frustration and suspense because it is unclear whether he will be rescued or if he will have to find a way to get out of the war-torn country on his own.

I was also very impressed with Wilson in this movie. As I mentioned, I've never seen him in a non-comedic role and, because of that, wasn't sure how he would handle something that required him to be more serious, especially since most of the other movies I've seen him in had him cast in a supporting capacity. However, he managed to carry the movie when he needed to, bringing just enough personality to sell his character's precarious situation.

In fact, one of the things I liked best was how Burnett was shown as being human. He was scared and, half the time, his survival seemed to be the result of luck than actual survival skills, just as I would expect to be the case in a situation like that. This, again, kept things interesting because it kept the movie from becoming predictable.

Behind Enemy Lines

The war was supposed to be over, but the battle to survive has only just begun. When U.S. Navy pilot Chriss Burnett is shot down during a recon mission over Bosnia, he must figh...

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Final Opinion

I had some serious doubts about this film. However, after finally watching it, I was much more impressed with it than I thought I would be and would definitely recommend it as a result of that.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 02/05/2017, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 05/17/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
It's interesting that Owen Wilson's character decides not to re-enlist because he thinks that he has all the routines down. It seems to me that his experiences after his plane is shot down could lead him to re-think his chosen second career.

Would he embrace flying perhaps over areas where he could be shot down? Would he look for a career completely different from airlines or Navy? Or would he re-enlist?

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