Behind Enemy Lines

By Mark Ramsey | 2001/11/29

It’s an uneasy peace in Bosnia, thanks to the freshly minted “Cincinnati accord.” Then again, who wouldn’t be uneasy after converging on Cincinnati?

The U.S. is keeping the peace Over There by sending its most heroic Surf Kahuna, Owen Wilson. Yes, fresh from the Battle of the Bonzai Pipeline, Lt. Tow-head is doing aerial recon on the front lines, ready to shoot the curl at the slightest provocation.

Owen and partner fly over Bosnia and photograph something they’re not supposed to see, and unfortunately it’s not Paula Poundstone’s sealed court transcript. Before you know it, their F/A-18 is negotiating surface-to-air missiles the way Owen’s longboard negotiates Neptune cocktails and sand facials. “Dude,” exclaims Owen, “this is a sovereign nation of gnarly hodads!”

behindenemylines_bluemangroup.jpgHey Owen, look out for that…BOOM! Wipeout! BOGUS!

Moments later, Owen is hanging ten – from a parachute in a tree. Whoa, time for some epic nachos, bra!

So Owen starts running. Running for his life. Running for the surf bunny honeys he left back home. Running because mines blow, bombs blast, and bullets whiz all around him – obviously the Serbs don’t possess that most potent weapon of mass destruction: Coppertone-piercing artillery!

But beware! Owen’s being followed by Serbia’s answer to Antonio Banderas and his high-powered but poorly calibrated rifle. He’s got a scope on there, but target evidence suggests he uses it not for aiming but for frying spiders in the midday sun.

“Who’s the dork frying the spiders, bra?” asks Owen. Unfortunately, no one in Bosnia is familiar with Owen’s uniquely bitchin’ colloquialisms – that’s why his request for “primo bud” is presumed to refer to beer.

Antonio, the dull sharp-shooter, is the right-hand man of a villainous Serbian military guy in a beret.

A beret?

I don’t see his sash, does he have a merit badge in villainy? How does he fund his network of terror, selling Thin Mints and Samoas? Has he ever kissed a Cub Scout?

behindenemylines_angel.jpgHere we are in the midst of endless carnage and utter devastation, and up drives Mr. Camp Fire Girl in a shiny new Mitsubishi SUV. Is this the Bosnian edition of The Price is Right?

Gene Hackman, the Screen Actors Guild’s answer to the Energizer Bunny, is a Navy big cheese who’s keeping an eye on the situation. Thanks to the magic of illicitly co-opted satellite technology, Gene peers at a computer screen while tiny pixels representing Owen run from tiny pixels representing guys with guns. All the while, Gene pesters his chief: “Where’s the game console on this thing? I wanna make him JUMP!”

If all this wasn’t pressure enough, Gene has to answer to a NATO honcho whose command of his troops is hopefully superior to his command of the English language.

Running, running, running.

Awash in terror, Owen jumps into a pit which turns out to be full of rotting corpses! Mental note: Avoid real estate developments on this site, especially if you have a daughter named Carol Ann who’s afraid of Poltergeists.

Escaping that scrape, Owen flags down a pickup driven by (and I’m not kidding here) a Bosnian Elvis Presley impersonator. Evidently he was on his way to a big-hair reunion with a faux Michael Landon.

In the exceedingly improbable climax, Owen gets to go all Rambo (“Cowabunga, you Serbian dudes!”), with the help of his U.S. Cavalry. He saves the day, makes his buddy’s death mean something, and hangs five from a chopper. Rad, yo! It’s a ridiculous corker, but an emotionally satisfying one just the same.

You can see the visual influence of Saving Private Ryan between every crack of Behind Enemy Lines, and believe me there are fault lines galore. But all in all, this is the right surreal movie at the right surreal time.

As Owen says, “Shaka-bra!”

Photos Copyright ©2001 20th Century Fox


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