Monday, November 11, 2013

"Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil": a routine thriller about the very real threat posed by North Korea; mystery mushroom explosion there in 2004 explained?

Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil” (2006), a film by James Dodson for Fox, seems like a B-film potboiler (as a sequel to the first “Behind Enemy Lines” film in 2001 with Owen Wilson as a fighter pilot in Bosnia), but it certain exploits an important theme: the danger to the world posed by North Korea, which became big news again in early 2013. 

I vaguely remember the crisis in 1994 mentioned at the beginning of the film, when we could have gone to war with North Korea.  This was a couple years after the Persian Gulf War, and this kind of war would have been much more costly.
A team of Navy Seals is dispatched to destroy a North Korean missile strike, after intelligence suggests that it could go active and actually hit the western United States with ICBM’s.  George Tenet had warned of such a possibility back in 2002. 
International politics comes into the picture. In time, things escalate to the point that the US generals, to the consternation of the president (Peter Coyote) recommend an all out regime change.  South Korea fears that the US is acting unnecessarily, and that obliteration of North Korea would send refugees into the South.  (Some of this had started to happen in Vietnam in the 1960s).  Or it could be much worse.  South Korea could take millions of civilian casualties.  But they live with this all the time.
The taxi-rickshaw crash near the missile site late in the film reminds one of the stage wrecks in old westerns.  The handglider concept as a means of entry from the mountains is interesting.

The film ends with the mushroom cloud that appeared on Sept. 9, 2004, which provoked several different explanations from both the Bush administration and from South Korea. The short "Decision and Perception": on the DVD explains how the fictional story, of a Seal behind enemy lines, could have triggered a small nuclear explosion to disarm the base; his apprehension would have created a national geopolitical crisis (although in 2004, North Korea wasn't on the radar screen the way Iraq and Al Qaeda were).

During most of the 1990’s, North Korea was probably viewed as a more dangerous threat than Al Qaeda, about whom we heard very little until 1998.

"Die Another Day" (2002), the twentieth Bond film, with Pierce Brosnan, showed Bond as having operated behind the scenes and getting captured in North Korea.  I recall seeing this in Minneapolis. 

The Fox DVD has copies of the film on both sides, with different extras.

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