November 4th, 2002

About A Year Ago. .

About A Year Ago. . . The action thriller, Behind Enemy Lines, had some modest success at the box office. Seeming loosely based on the story of Air Force Captain Scott O’Grady, BEL tells the story of Navy Lieutentant Chris Burnett (played by Owen Wilson) — a navigator of an F-18 Hornet who has his plane shot out from under him during a mission over the Balkans.

The balance of the film follows Burnett as he tries to evade capture by Serbian troops who have plenty to hide. But while the rest of the movie follows the plot line of a pretty conventional thriller, I think the movie’s subplot has something important to say about the way American sees itself in the world, and how its interests are diverging with that of its putative allies.

For most of the film, the captain of Burnett’s carrier, played by Gene Hackman, spends all too much time battling with his NATO superior, a Spanish admiral played by Joaquim de Almeida. Time after time, the Spanish admiral attempts to restrain Hackman in his efforts to rescue his downed aviator — especially since his recovery might complicate a sham peace accord that America’s European allies are anxious to preserve.

So, while most of the movie is formulaic, and even forgettable, the subplot is one that seems to have accurately predicted the complications in America’s relationship with its traditional allies. For that reason alone, BEL deserves a second look as it debuts on cable this month.

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