Despite its rushed ending, Enemy Mine is a beautifully-crafted film with terrific visuals and memorable characters.
Plot: After crashing on an inhospitable planet, human Davidge (Dennis Quaid) and alien Drac Jareeba (Louis Gossett Jr.) form an unlikely bond while surviving together.
Review: I always got this movie mixed up with Alien Nation (the sci-fi actioner starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin). I thought they were essentially the same movie, a tale of distrust and incompatibilities that would blossom into a union of grudging respect. While this generalization applies to Enemy Mine, the film is much more than that shallow label.
While on the surface, a relatively simple story, Enemy Mine draws the viewer in through a pair of wonderfully conceived characters. While definitely with his flaws, Dennis Quaid’s Davidge is endearing right off the bat, caring for a dying crewmate whose unfortunate fate was due to his reckless behaviour. Louis Gossett Jr.’s Jareeba immediately comes across as a wise and spiritual being, and his combative actions are more a result of Davidge’s aggression than any true malice on his part. They make an unlikely duo, but their camaraderie plays as genuine and believable as the movie progresses.
The setting for the movie is stunning. I did notice that the initial location was a soundstage set (I’ve seen too many movies), but that doesn’t detract from the sheer impressiveness and scale of the environment. Fyrine IV feels like its own alien planet, with its own domain and perils. Too often, you sense that the actors are tramping across Eastern European countries that have escaped the North American eye, diluting the otherworldly experience. There is none of that here – Fyrine IV feels like an actual place you could visit (though why you’d want to, I don’t know).
As for the makeup, Louis Gossett Jr. is nowhere to be found in the Jareeba. Even his voice sounds patently different, and kudos to him for inventing the unique delivery of the alien language. I did find myself fixated on his mouth a lot, as it appeared to be pushing through the makeup, but that is a relatively minor gripe.
This is not an action movie. There is a spectacular, albeit short, dogfight at the film’s beginning, but that’s about it. The rest is Quaid and Gossett Jr. talking and avoiding the many hazards of the planet, including a monster under the sand was decent and believably frightening. Therefore, it was strange that the movie’s last fifteen to twenty minutes turned into an action rescue flick. The transition is jarring and doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. I would have preferred having more time between Davidge and Jareeba’s son, Zammis, but I’m assuming some Hollywood executive wanted an action scene. It’s probably my only actual problem with the film (though having Brion James as a bad guy is always welcome).
Overall, Enemy Mine is generally a pleasant and rewarding viewing experience. You won’t hear me say this often, but if the entire movie was simply Quaid and Gossett Jr’s characters interacting, I would have been happy with that. The ending scene didn’t fit the rest of the film, but the character work and the visuals were more than enough to compensate for this flaw. If you haven’t seen this flick, do yourself a favour and give it a shot.