The Escape

No-one at all seems to have noticed what a remarkable film Behind Enemy Lines is, and that is a remarkable fact in itself. It’s put together with enough learned ingenuity to startle the dullest plodder in the critical fraternity, but they must have slept through this one. You know sometimes they make it up.

Let pass, if you want, the imagery of submerged tiger cages, proceed directly to the foundation of the film on The Ten Commandments, centered around the gold of the Exodus but also evoked in a long road full of refugees (incidentally delaying the villains’ progress). Now prepare yourself for a lengthy homage to Deliverance filmed on a river with rapids and a waterfall. Add a significant citation from The Great Escape.

After this, a large-scale re-creation of a forward firebase under assault, and defended in a manner that just recalls Sergeant York and perhaps more remotely The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The scene ends with the culminating gag in Battle of the Bulge.

In this scene, Col. Cooper (David Carradine) leads the retreat, but takes down the American flag and drapes it over his right shoulder as he fights his way out with an M60 machine gun.

Rapid cuts control the action, which is treated by Amir with singular aplomb. The more spectacular the gag, the more simply and naturally he films it. A jeep runs out of road and flies out of the jungle through the air into the river, expelling the driver in mid-flight. Three cameras with intercuts and slow motion might have been used, but Amir plants his camera and gets the whole thing at once, “like a shot off a shovel.”

Mako has the role of Capt. Vinh, the prison camp commandant, and sinks his teeth into it.