Review of Behind Enemy Lines
After the horrendous and unforgettable September 11th massacre, Hollywood hits back with a slew of military themed films designed to make the Amerian populace feel good about themselves again. This, however, is starting to come with an understanding of the political machinations which take place OUTSIDE the US which is highly refreshing to those of us who have been more attuned to world events than our colonial cousins.
Owen Wilson plays Chris Burnett, a naval pilot disgruntled with the role that service seems to bring these days - more aid worker than soldier. Disgusted with his attitude, Burnett`s commanding officer (Hackman relinquishing facets of his role in Crimson Tide) sends him and his pilot for a recon mission around Bosnia. Capturing images on camera of something they shouldn`t leads to a breathtaking chase around the skies with them and a couple of surface-to-air missiles - 5 minutes of which, by the way puts Top Gun to shame!
What happens next seems a shame to spoil, but the name of the film sort of gives it away. Next we get an excellent cat and mouse thriller as our hero tries to get out alive.
Filmed as an Anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen picture, this is about as good as it gets for a modern movie, and a good job too. Director Moore makes excellent use of the wide aspect ratio throughout the film - the sheer terror of the missile chase and the trip wire sequence are two notable examples. Many parts of the film were shot on location in Serbia and this captures the authenticity of the Eastern European landscape perfectly. Certain shots were developed using the silver retention process used to great effect in films like Seven and Saving Private Ryan - and there are flavours of the cinematography of these two films used here - no bad thing. Bosnia`s landscapes are shown off well, and the muted concrete greys of more built up areas are picked up with excellent definition and clarity. Skin tones are spot on and the print is free from dirt or grain - what you would expect from a quality production actually.
With a choice of Dolby Digital or DTS, you have a perfect disk to show off your system. Again the same arguments I have made many times before can be stated here. DTS is generally the better mix, with smoother panning effects, enhanced clarity in dialogue, and a generally slightly more "open" soundstage. The caveat of the 10dB bass boost is evident though, however not as much as some films, but be prepared to wince at the sound pressure levels this film can create! Dolby Digital is tamer, the notable difference to me is the dialogue clarity - but this is a very minor quibble to what is an excellent score on both formats.
Again the sound captures the tension perfectly, from the initial missile/jet chase scene where the split surrounds are used well and aggressively as the jet blasts and the missile whines its way round the room. There is a lovely smooth pan from rear left to front left speaker as a sniper bullet zips through the speakers, giving you just as much of a fright as Burnett! It isn`t all about loud and brash though (however it does this stonkingly well in a number of places!), there are quieter passages where the more realistic, natural sounds of the outdoors prevail and more surreal moments like children laughing, however there is an unnatural eerieness about this subtly notifying you something`s wrong. All good stuff.
The director and editor commentary is excellent. Here you learn that for a major motion picture, it was shot on a relatively small budget due to this being the directors first time - a graduate of commercials this one. However, it seems these two have been doing this sort of commentary for years. Totally natural, they part with interesting information and give an honest account of the shoot itself. Great stuff, a wonderful way to wile away an hour and a half, and the producer commentary is worth checking out too, being more based on how they got this story to the silver screen.
There are quite a few deleted scenes... well, EXTENDED scenes would be a more accurate description. This film was given a PG-13 rating by the MPAA, the US ratings board. The original film would have garnered an R rating, and the extended scenes show the more gory parts of these scenes which have now been cut out to gain the lower rating. It`s a pity the DVD production house didn`t offer seamless branching to show the original cut with this more adult version.
The behind the scenes featurette is one of those watch once, forget completely affairs. A couple of interesting tidbits here, but nothing to get really excited about
The film`s coda features stories of what happened to the characters after this moment in history, suggesting that this was based on a true story - which it possibly could have been. The ending does bring out some American jingoism, but if this film didn`t have a rousing climax you`d feel rather short changed - so I`m going to allow it this time. Picture and sound are what you would expect from Top Gun for the millenium and the extras are interesting enough to keep you watching the DVD after. If you want a Saturday night in or something to show off your system, then this is a solid buy.