Making the Grades
LT. CHRIS BURNETT (OWEN WILSON) is a disgruntled flight navigator fed up with one too many simulation runs and policing assignments on the Adriatic Sea. Ready to resign from a 7-year stint with the navy, Burnett is sent with his pilot, Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht), to fly over a safe zone established under a shaky treaty with Bosnian troops. When their plane's radar shows unidentified activity taking place just outside the established boundaries, Burnett persuades his pilot to sneak off their prescribed flight pattern for a look. But the renegade militia they photograph hunkered down in the forest isn't about to let two American hotshots run home with a story. Following an intense air battle between the F-18 fighter jet and several heat seeking missiles, the twosome are downed on enemy terrain and pursued on foot by the rebels (Olek Krupa, Vladimir Mashkov).
With daily coverage of American troops storming the Middle East, Behind Enemy Lines carries a haunting hint of reality. Foreign towns are shown littered with landmines and homeless refugees hide in the rubble of abandoned buildings. Innocent victims are brutally murdered and tossed into muddy, mass graves by their own countrymen while execution-like killings are replayed in flashbacks. Given the current world climate, parents may find these scenes unsettling for even teens. Profanities also riddle the film's dialogue (including at least one sexual expletive and an obscene hand gesture).
While Burnett's unauthorized detour does uncover the gruesome genocidal activities of the rebels, his insubordination jeopardizes the lives of many others. Justifying his actions and the value of life may be this film's biggest challenge although it opens plenty of avenues for discussion on individual responsibility, leadership, troop loyalty, and the uncertainty of wartime truces.
Although this film will resonate with war genre fans, the profanities and heavy portrayal of violence may make Behind Enemy Lines unwelcome territory for family viewing.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Behind Enemy Lines.
Although Burnett failed to follow his flight plan and is consequently shot down, Admiral Reigart feels a responsibility to bring his boy out. How much responsibility should leaders (or parents) shoulder for the misconduct of those under their care? Do you agree with the decision that the Admiral made? Do you think he adequately prepared his soldiers for wartime activities?
Was Burnett’s flyover justified when he discovered the activities of the rebels? How can one country ensure that the other is following the decrees of a treaty without breaking the truce? What would have happened to the villagers if Burnett had not made his discovery?