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  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 5 Theatrical trailer

Behind Enemy Lines (Rental)

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 100 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
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In the wake of September 11, there has been a significant shift in Hollywoodís priorities, with a spate of gung-ho, flag-waving, military adventures appearing suddenly on our cinema screens. The cynics amongst us may suggest that Hollywood seems to be blatantly cashing in on Americaís collective grief. In return, Hollywood may argue that itís providing a community service; helping to rebuild the hearts and minds of the American people. Whatever your view, I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And Behind Enemy Lines, one of the first such films to make its appearance, really is so much pudding.

Sick of playing cop in a war far from home, disillusioned FA-18 navigator Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson), has handed in his resignation and plans to leave military service. Having witnessed first hand Burnettís gradual slide into mediocrity, his superior officer Admiral Reigart (Gene Hackman) accepts his resignation without much fuss; convinced that Burnett just isn't made of the right stuff. With their carrier poised to turn for home, Burnett and his pilot Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht), are assigned one last reconnaissance mission over war-torn Bosnia. However, when the pair happen to stray over a Bosnian safe-zone and photograph the mass genocide that is occuring there, their plane is brought down by a very determined Serbian missile.

Trapped behind enemy lines, and doggedly pursued by a bunch of bloodthirsty Serbs, it's all Burnett can do to survive long enough to make radio contact with his countrymen. Finally Burnett gets through to Reigart, who puts aside his contempt for the young fly-boy and resolves to get him the hell home - no matter what the cost! (Hurrah!) Unfortunately thereís shady political shenanigans afoot, with French NATO Admiral and leader of the joint force, Admiral Piquet (Joaquim de Almeida), refusing to endorse Reigartís request for a rescue mission. With Burnett a pawn in a political game, and with time quickly running out, will he avoid becoming the next clichť, sorry casualty, of war?

In bringing us Behind Enemy Lines, first time Hollywood director John Moore throws every visual tool imaginable at the big screen and the results are an ultra-stylish, MTV-inspired visual-extravaganza. Thereís slow-motion, fast-motion, fast zooms, hand-held, 360-degree steady-cam and elaborate set-pieces; not to mention a plethora of filters and clever transitions. Thereís no argument that the results look fantastic, but ultimately, these flashy techniques just canít hide the inadequacies in the script itself. As usual itís all style with no substance.

Whilst the initial portions of the film play like an unashamed advertisement for the US Navy, once Owen Wilson gets behind enemy lines things arenít much better. With a predictability that borders on monotony (saved only by some elaborate set-pieces) the plot plods on to its inevitable conclusion. Burnettís pursuers, no matter how much they try, just canít seem to catch up with him. And then thereís the old chestnut; no matter how many rounds they shoot, be they bullet, be they tank, be they whatever, they just canít seem to hit him. For the Americans, on the other hand, itís a matter of doing no wrong. Sharp-shooters to the man, their ordinance is high-tech, well-maintained and gleams like their righteous souls. Sadly, the film paints all foreigners, including Americaís NATO allies, in a negative light.

The real pity of all this is that the film actually caught my interest in the first five minutes. Owen Wilson is at his best when heís delivering his trademark dry wit and wry sarcasm, making him the classic anti-hero. Indeed, the film begins with some classic Wilson dialogue about rock stars and their mishaps with aircraft. However, cynicism doesnít sit too well with the stereotypical military hero, and all too soon the good Wilson is gone; replaced by action-hero Wilson; the anti-Wilson. And thus with anti-Wilson firmly in residence, and with nothing for him to do other than run towards a predictable climax, the star of the show becomes the visual effects. How infinitely more rewarding it would have been to see the good Wilson placed in the same scenario. Hollywood, repeat after me - "anti-heroes make the best heroes". As it stands, you better hope to god youíve got a flag to wave and a back to slap.

  Video
Contract

While the film itself might be on the wrong side of average, you certainly canít complain about its treatment on DVD. Presented at its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a single-layer disc from Fox, Behind Enemy Linesí anamorphic MPEG image certainly meets the high standards that we have come to expect from DVD releases these days.

Being of very recent vintage, the transfer has been drawn from a crystal clean print and has introduced only the smallest amount of aliasing; taking the form of moirŤ on one or two instances of dense foliage. In general, colours are quite muted, with drab navy beige and grey predominating early on, and shifting to the dreary forests and mud of a war-torn Bosnia still feeling the chill of winter. When the odd splash of colour does come, for example during the spectacular flying sequences or on the bridge of Reigartís carrier, thereís not a hint of bleeding, and all is very nicely balanced; as evidenced by the perfect skin tones. Black levels are deep and solid, with no low-level noise.

Beautifully sharp, the image is literally teeming with detail, both in well-lit and lowly-lit scenes. Behind Enemy Lines has been described as Ďa string of photo opportunities for the American militaryí, and whether itís a sombre and contemplative Wilson sitting on a lonely ridge, or mud and shrapnel flying about, itís there to see in all its glory.

In terms of compression, Fox have also done a fine job. The many instances of smoke and cloud are handled without posterisation and, apart from one or two instances of slight macro blocking (pixelation) in darker backgrounds, the detail extends to the furthest reaches of the image. All in all a fantastic looking release.

  Audio
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In these post-Saving Private Ryan days, itís almost a prerequisite for films with even a sniff of the military to go all out in the audio department. And what director could resist the temptation, when thereís screaming warplanes, missiles, tanks, and all manner of death and destruction to fill a soundstage? Of course itís impossible and Behind Enemy Lines sports an impressive, reference-quality soundtrack to compliment its dazzling visuals.

Making aggressive use of all six channels, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix will have you bobbing up and down on your sofa like an excited kid. With fantastic separation, the front and rear channels carry all manner of ambient and foley effects that create a wonderfully immersive soundstage. The level of audio detail, especially on the ground in Bosnia, is fantastic, with layers of sound to be heard at various distances from the listener. Shouting soldiers, the barking of search dogs, the crack of rifle fire, the rumbling of tanks, itís there to be savoured. During the aerial sequences, directionality hits high gear with jet flyovers roaring across and around the soundstage. Impressive also are the pitched gun battles that feature the pinging of ricochets and the whoosh of shrapnel from all corners of, and in many cases criss-crossing, the room. I need not even mention that the subwoofer rumbles continuously for the duration. Better warn the neighbours.

Rounding out the audio presentation is clear dialogue from the centre channel and, taking a leaf out of the Top Gun how-to manual, a few well-placed contemporary rock tracks are thrown in for good measure.

  Extras
Contract

Sorry, no. Youíll have to wait, humble consumer, for the sell-through release. There are a few promotional trailers for upcoming Fox releases, but as these annoyingly play before the main menu Iím not going to mention them.

  Overall  
Contract

The fact the Behind Enemy Lines premiered on board a US aircraft carrier speaks volumes about this film. No more than a bit of flag-waving fluff, and with plot holes big enough to drive a Serbian tank through, it represents a predictable and ultimately disappointing genre piece. Although I suspect it's already required viewing for every American serviceman (and woman) due to renew their vows (or whatever it is they do), Behind Enemy Lines will interest viewers wanting a sharp, mindless and very short-lasting adrenalin hit. Just don't eat before hand - all the ra-ra and back-slapping might just make you sick.


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      And I quote...
    "It might look good, and it might sound amazing, but Owen Wilson does action hero? I don't think so... "
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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