Based on the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novella by Barry Longyear, Enemy Mine weaves the story of two warring soldiers: a good old American boy (Dennis Quaid) and his reptilian-if-humanoid counterpart (Louis Gossett, Jr.) from the planet Drac, both stranded on a hostile and alien world. Initially tensions run high between them, but soon the pair move from grudging cooperation to genuine companionship as they struggle to survive.
For the first 5 minutes of Enemy Mine it seems as if we’ve landed in the middle of an intergalactic space movie, complete with state-of-the-art visual effects by Industrial Light and Magic, dramatic dogs fights, and a not too subtle kill-or-be-killed attitude.
But then something strange happens: The film slows down. It stops. It takes two mortal enemies, and puts them together in a hut on a barren planet. It forces them to rely on each other to survive, and then it just observes. Suddenly this space movie, becomes very grounded. It becomes a war film, without war, an alien movie about humanity. Before the whole thing is over your eyes will begin to water, and you’ll wonder just how the hell the film managed to pull off that trick.
The primary reason Enemy Mine works so well is the two central performances. The always dependable Dennis Quaid is marvelous as the human pilot, who, ironically, discovers his humanity, only when he meets an alien. Top honors, however, most go to Louis Gossett Jr. who delivers nothing short of Oscar worthy material. Buried beneath a thick layer of prosthetic make-up, he manages to create a mesmerizing and deeply emotional performance, despite looking like a lizard. Quaid and Gossett build up an instant rapport, and it’s not hard to develop a genuine affection for this mismatched pair.
Okay, so maybe the studio-created landscapes won’t fool modern audiences, and the beautiful miniature shots look only marginally better than the old Flash Gordon versions, but who cares? The drama is real, the feelings are real, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.
Audio & Video:
This is a surprisingly good transfer, with very little grain, but still plenty of good details and strong colors. Close-ups occasionally lack a bit of detail, and some of the extremely dark shots, betray the age of the film, but despite these reservations I wouldn’t hesitate to call the images stunning.
The 4.1 DTS track is serviceable, but obviously not as immersive as one could hope.
This limited edition Blu-ray from the Twilight Time series (available at www.screenarchives.com) would have been a great opportunity to dig up some material about the troubled production – the original director was fired and the entire movie reshot – but unfortunately the disc only includes an isolated score and a trailer. The disc is region free.
Enemy Mine is the type of film that simply wouldn’t be made today. A touching, thought-provoking film that cares more about characters than explosions and effects. Intelligent science fiction is in short supply these days. Good thing we have the classics to fall back on.
Extra Features: D