Contrary to 20th Century Fox’s claims and marketing of Behind Enemy Lines, this film is not really based on a true story. In fact, the real person who the film claims to base the movie on sued the studio for defamation of character. The filmmakers took a LOT of liberty to tell the story of former USAF Captain Scott O’Grady, who was shot down in 1995 over Bosnia. The characters and events in the film are almost entirely fictional, which begs the following questions: 1.) If the filmmakers wanted to tell the real story of Scott O’Grady, then why didn’t they simply stick to what really happened? 2.) If the filmmakers didn’t care to stick to the real facts, which they apparently did not, then why not simply sell the film as another fictional action movie?

The film stars Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman. Wilson plays Chris Burnett, the character based off of O’Grady. Hackman plays Navy Admiral Reigart, who I believe is a real person. Wilson was riding a career high when Behind Enemy Lines came out in 2001, with the successes of Meet the ParentsZoolander, and The Royal Tenenbaums establishing him as a box office comedy star. I guess the studio figured that Wilson’s success in comedy would also lead to success in other genres, thus casting him for this film. Critics didn’t seem to care much for his performance here, griping that he comes off as annoying. I didn’t seem to mind his character. Wilson is established as a rebel who questions authority and the decisions made by his leaders. I found myself agreeing with much of what he had to complain about, which essentially boiled down to what the hell was the U.S. doing wasting its time helping NATO with the Bosnian War? I think Wilson was well cast here because he doesn’t look like your conventional action star, which gives the film some element of reality. Hackman, who I hold in very high regard, seemed to dial this one in. He basically reprises his role from Crimson Tide without offering anything new or different. I was looking forward to his performance more than anything so I was quite disappointed to see him give something as uninspired as this.

My main issue with Behind Enemy Lines is how implausible it was. I don’t know the experiences O’Grady had to go through, but I sure as hell know that he didn’t experience anywhere near the kinds of things Owen Wilson does in this film. The filmmakers apparently decided that the real story wasn’t dramatic or exciting enough so they put Wilson through these action sequences that will make you laugh your ass off. James Bond doesn’t even defy the kind of logic that this film does. The Bosnians, Serbs, or whatever the hell they are, deploy a whole army to take out Wilson and not ONE soldier (including so-cool-that-he-wears-an-Adidas-jumpsuit-instead-of-a-uniform sniper) can manage to even graze him. However, nothing tops the ending that I somehow forced myself to watch. Even my father, who was enjoying the film, could not believe how totally absurd the film ended. It may perhaps be the absolute worst cinematic ending I have seen in my life. After watching it, I actually became a little angry for how dumb the filmmakers must have thought audiences would be to swallow this shit.

Lastly, this was one of the few films I’ve seen where I can safely say that the film score was not only inappropriate to the film, but it significantly contributed to its failure. I wonder if the score was actually composed for another film and for some reason the filmmakers or studio decided to use it for this movie. It is THAT MUCH out of place here. There are moments in the film where you have a somber and dramatic scene and out of nowhere a musical cue blasts through your speaker for no reason whatsoever. It was strange to say the least.

As you can see, I didn’t think much of Behind Enemy Lines. It insulted my intelligence by trying to convince me that the events in the film actually happened in real life. Had the film been presented as a straight-up fictional action movie, I may have somewhat enjoyed it. From a marketing perspective, I don’t think the Bosnian War serves as an interesting topic for American audiences so I can understand if the studios feel they need to spruce up the drama and action. However, I refuse to believe that the real life ordeal Scott O’Grady had to endure could have been that dull for the filmmakers to exaggerate the story to this extentBehind Enemy Lines.

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