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Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 09:37 GMT
Enemy Lines gamble 'pays off'
Owen Wilson stars in his first big action adventure
Owen Wilson stars in his first big action adventure
By BBC News Online's Alan Granville

At any other time, Behind Enemy Lines would be seen as just another gung-ho Top Gun-style American war movie - but then 11 September happened.

The film, starring Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson, was the first war-based movie released after the atrocities in the US, opening just six weeks after the attacks.

Many Hollywood movies which had anything to do with planes, bombs or terrorists were edited or had their release dates changed.

However Behind Enemy Lines, directed by former documentary-maker John Moore, had its release date brought forward by two months in a gamble by the film's producers 20th Century Fox.

Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is being held back
Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is being held back
Gene Hackman stars as a commanding officer who must save Navy pilot Owen Wilson (Shanghai Noon) who has been shot down in enemy territory.

The film has been accused of being jingoistic and pro-American, but it has proved to be a hit in the US, making its $38m (26m) cost back in three weeks.

Other terrorist-based movies that had their release dates changed after 11 September are still waiting for release.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Collateral Damage was one of the first movies affected.

He stars as a firefighter who watches his family die in a terrorist explosion and vows revenge.

Nicolas Cage stars in WW2 drama
Nicolas Cage stars in WW2 drama
It is now expected to be released in February.

Nicolas Cage's Windtalkers, where he stars as a bodyguard to a Navajo colleague in World War II, has been pushed back from November to June 2002.

MGM vice-chairman Chris McGurk told Entertainment Weekly: "The themes of this movie are going to be as relevant in June as they are now."

'Emotional wave'

So how did a relatively small budget war film with a debut director manage to test the water first?

Mr Moore admits it is down to the studio.

He told BBC News Online: "Fox have to take the credit. After 11 September I thought that's it, two years of work is down the drain. But they took a gamble, they rolled the dice.

"We sneaked the movie to an audience and their reaction went through the roof.

"We caught an emotional wave. It moved a film that would have been seen as rather insignificant to becoming that movie, the first war movie post-11 September."

Mr Moore acknowledged the film was not going to win any Academy Awards.

"It's not a work of genius. It's just about a bloke running everywhere."

'Tough time'

He is honest about the film's appeal outside the US, saying he expects a hostile reaction from critics.

"I hope a European audience would find it relevant because of the fact it is set in Bosnia, because Americans generally don't know or care about Bosnia.

"I'm expecting a tough time from the critics who see it as flag-waving and jingoistic with an over-simplistic approach."

A former war photographer who came under fire in the Lebanon, Mr Moore got the director's job thanks to his advertisement for Sega shown during the MTV Music Awards in 1999.

Wilson is full of admiration for director John Moore
Wilson is full of admiration for director John Moore
Producer John Davies said he was impressed with what he saw.

"John sees things differently than most filmmakers. He has a language of storytelling, of making it feel fresh."

For Wilson it was a break from the usual comedy roles with which he is associated.

The star of Meet the Parents and Zoolander said: "John presents a strange and foreign world we haven't seen before."

Movie critics have been divided over the movie.

The New York Times called it "sometimes striking, sometimes silly - but never, ever boring" while TV Guide in the US said it was "essentially a Chuck Norris movie with trendy production values".

The film is released in the UK on 4 January.

See also:

03 Dec 01 | Film
Potter breaks Japan records
15 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Fox goes ape over ITV poster
12 May 00 | Entertainment
Hackman makes Cannes debut
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