2012: BATTLE FOR SUPREMACY
By its very title, Enemy Mind deliberately recalls the 1980s A-budget science-fiction film Enemy Mine (1985) about a human (Dennis Quaid) and an alien (Lou Gosset Jr) who were stranded on an alien planet and forced to overcome their mutual distrust and cooperate for joint survival and in so doing discovered a friendship. Enemy Mind retinkers the concept somewhat for low-budget shooting now the parties are both humans grown up on different planets and their distrust is one that goes across political/religious barriers rather than inter-species warfare. The same time that Enemy Mind came out, a very similar variation on the same plot was used in Hunter Prey (2010). There are other a number of other sources of inspiration that you could point to in bald head and wearing a set of goggles for most of the film, captured terrorist Xu Razer looks for all the world like a twin brother to Vin Diesels Riddick in Pitch Black (2000).
Enemy Mind makes inventive use of its low-budget. The alien planet looks like an ordinary earthly location with little done to disguise this fact power lines and asphalt roads run through the landscape, while the buildings we visit are commonplace rundown terrestrial structures. The filmmakers have shot in the distinctive Painted Canyons and desolate inland Salton Sea area around Palm Springs. This lends a hauntedly otherworldly feel to the film, as though they are on a barren desert world. At the same time, this has a surreal J.G. Ballard-esque feel of the present-day lying in ruined disarray. Sometimes the low-budget is a little obvious a cache of Tarkian weapons is conveniently hidden behind a tarpaulin; the scene where Ryken Zane gouges out Zu Razers eye involves no more than him shining a light in it and with the destroyed eye covered by a bloody bandage afterwards. That said, despite its low-budget, the film has some excellent and highly professional CGI effects shots. These are sparsely distributed but there are some great, superbly detailed shots of spaceships in orbit, a repeated shot of a ship flying through a futuristic city, and especially good being the shots of the space station at the climax. The sole effects shot that does not work is the crashed wreckage of the blockade-runner, which is very unconvincingly pasted in over the desert landscape.
The essence of the story is well drawn. The story is a battle between mutual differences of Ryken Zanes prejudices and adherence to military training up against Xu Razers universe-embracing philosophy of peace. It is a fairly predictable story arc one can see that Ryken Zane is going to open up and learn to trust his prisoner by the end of the story. There is reasonable writing between the two characters, not to mention good performances, and the conflict sparks some interest. It is also very much an Enemy Mine that has been given a contemporary 00s relevance the characters are a professional soldier up against a terrorist who belongs to a religious group that have been scapegoated for their views and in actuality espouses a peaceful philosophy (for which you can surely read the US military taking on Islam in the Middle East). In a very contemporary liberal outlook, the soldier puts aside his prejudices against the religious minorities and learns that his own side (which is not too subtly called the Republicans) has lied to him.
This works effectively, although I felt let down by the twist ending [PLOT SPOILERS], which reverses the sympathies that have been built up and we then learn that the original assumptions we had all along were the correct ones. I dont like it when a film puts much into a character learning the error of their ways and then suddenly throws it on its head and says he was wrong to me that becomes a slap in the face to us the audience for investing emotion in the characters. I also found the particular purpose that the set-up was designed for to involve a highly improbable set of circumstances with far too many variables that surely in reality would not easily guarantee the desired outcome.
The headline name for the film is 93 year-old Ernest Borgnine. Despite his getting the top billing on the video and credits, one realizes as they start to watch the film that Borgnine is not even present on screen and is merely limited to the voice of Control that Ryken Zane speaks to on his communicator throughout. The entire film, with the exception of about three faces towards the end, is carried by the duo of Ryken Zane and Xu Razer who both perform well in their parts.
(This film is now available via enemy-mind.com)