OWEN WILSON -
TOMB RAIDER ?
Copyright 2001 www.tombraiderchronicles.com
[ December 1st 2001 ]
Wilson has a face like a cake left out in the
rain - in a good way. His is a kisser made for
the screen, not waxy-movie-star handsome but handsome
because, with all those weird angles and that
twisty nose, there's always something to look
the face Brad Pitt constantly tries to give himself
by breaking his own teeth and picking at his skin.
So it's refreshing to find Wilson's odd face and
odder sensibility - see his patented idiosyncratic
quipster in Rushmore, which he wrote, and Meet
the Parents, which he stole - where Pitt and Cruise
usually hang out, on the playground of the mondo
Enemy Lines, Wilson plays Chris Burnett, a cocky
navy pilot and all around high-fivin' white guy.
In another time, Burnett might have been a Top
Gun, but not in today's murky geopolitical climate.
He's two weeks from quitting.
soldier thinks they're going to get a chance to
punch some Nazi in the face in Normandy," he says,
bummed about the quell of fascism. It's peacetime,
and the aviators are suffering ennui of teenage
proportions. The real villain in Behind Enemy
Lines is NATO, because it's boring. One gets the
sense that Burnett's disgruntlement with global
politics is Hollywood's; how the hell is a screenwriter
supposed to make dastardly, moustache-twirling
villains out of Tutsis?
there's a germ of an interesting idea here - what
happens to all that hoo-ha military energy when
it has nowhere to go? - but the movie skims across
the one issue that could have lent it a modicum
of relevance. In the end, it's just a super-realistic
and his crew fly dull reconnaissance missions
over a newly peaceful Bosnia. Burnett takes a
spin where he's not supposed to (if the war won't
come to Mohammed ...) and accidentally witnesses
the shady goings-on of a Serbian rebel faction.
First-time director John Moore loves blowing stuff
up in incredible detail; when Burnett is shot
down, even the nuts and bolts of his ejection
seat grunt and pop.
gruff but loving commanding officer, played by
Gene Hackman, is ready to go in and rescue his
rogue pilot, but the navy forbids any action,
unwilling to risk the region's fragile peace.
Moore is best known for directing a Sega video
game system advertisement, and Behind Enemy Lines
showcases the best, and worst, of his expertise.
Wilson runs, hops and ducks through Bosnia, dodging
mines like Lara Croft. But he also violates the
laws of physics, climbing to the top of a mountain
in about 10 seconds; possible if you're digital,
impossible if you're analog, or human.
someone who's supposed to be hiding from circling
snipers, Burnett spends a lot of time flitting
across open fields, imitating the von Trapps.
When the flitting is done, he proceeds to sit
on top of the aforementioned mountain like a cherry
on a sundae, crying out to the pursuing rebel
forces: Pluck me! All of this action follows the
cardinal rule of gaming design - if it looks cool,
do it - but it also takes you out of the movie,
unravelling the suspense any good action movie
requires. Wilson is game, his Texan incredulity
a fair response to this barren landscape. Hackman
rises above the pop psychology of his daddy role,
conveying the wounded integrity of a man who has
given his life to an organization he can no longer
supporting players fare worse. What hell to be
esteemed Polish actor Olek Krupa playing a Serbian
sniper in a track suit, all beady-eyed with a
perpetual cigarette dangling from his lips. An
Officer and a Gentleman star David Keith has a
bizarre role as Hackman's right-hand man, or The
Guy Who States the Obvious - e.g., looking at
a rainy sky: "Damn weather's sure not helping."
is no master of subtlety. He uses subtitles to
introduce characters, a lazy, disorienting trend
that highlights a weak script. He's also overly
eager to crib style from his heroes, mixing John
Woo slo-mo with Saving Private Ryan herky-jerkiness.
The camera work is so wonky for the final third
of the film that I literally felt nauseous.
are probably hoping Behind Enemy Lines will strike
a chord with a newly jingoistic filmgoing public,
but I doubt even the most ardent flag-wavers will
buy this cheese. At one point, in the back of
a pick-up loaded with civilians, Burnett asks
for water. No water here, he's told, we only have
(root around in backpack for product to place)
- Coke! A kid in an Ice Cube T-shirt declares
his love of "the hip hop," and our hero deems
him worth saving.
delicate geopolitics of the 21st century - and
in Hollywood - only the most pop culture savvy