ENEMY MINE (1985)

PrintE-mail Written by Robert Martin

This 1985 science fiction drama from Wolfgang Petersen, hot on the heels of Das Boot and The NeverEnding Story, must have seemed like a sure-fire hit at the time. A hot director, a sexy young star, a recent Oscar winner to add gravity to the whole thing, plus an allegorical tale to appeal to the intellect and warm the heart. Fox must have been expecting the box office tills to be chiming.


But a troubled production, which included Petersen being brought on board after a week of shooting with original director Richard Loncraine was scrapped and that helmsman fired, a massive overspend on the budget and less than ecstatic reviews resulted in Enemy Mine disappearing pretty quickly down a mine-sized hole.

And, strangely, it has stayed buried there ever since, with no re-appraisal via the home cinema market which so many other and, frankly less enjoyable, box office flops seem to have achieved. This Blu-ray release dusts off the cobwebs and gives you a chance to judge for yourself whether the film’s neglect is warranted or otherwise.

In the future, deep space colonisation by humans results in a war with the dracs, an amphibious race doing the same thing. Following a battle, gung-ho fighter Dennis Quaid shoots down an enemy ship onto an unknown planet and crash lands there himself. The drac he shot down is, however, still alive. With little hope of rescue, the two enemies can either continue the war and kill each other, or learn to live together to survive in a hostile environment where the elements and an underground beasty with a very big mouth doesn’t mind of it’s a human or a drac that gets it first.

As the story progresses and, you guessed it, the enemies become friends, relying on each other and learning about each other’s culture and lives, there’s a surprise in store when the asexual drac reveals it is going to have a baby. And when the chance of escape does come, it’s in the form of a mercenary mine craft occupied by humans who use captured dracs as slaves.

With Quaid and, fresh from his Oscar win in An Officer and a Gentleman, Louis Gossett Jr. as the human and the drac, both actors give fully committed performances - a good job, as it’s mainly the two of them on screen for most of the running time. Quaid convinces as both a hot head and, later, a man who sees through his own prejudice. Gossett, unrecognisable under some pretty outstanding scaly make-up courtesy of Chris Walas (who would win an Oscar a year later for The Fly), fascinates as the reptilian creature who is, ultimately, more civilised than the human being.

There’s no denying the theme of racism which underpins the whole thing – the dracs all seem to be played by black actors and when you see them being whipped at the mine, slaves to human masters, the point is rammed home.

The effects are lovely, even the ones which have dated poorly just feel charming. A few years after telling the Blade Runner himself that it’s ‘time to die’, Brion James makes a suitably nasty villain and, if the story ties itself up a little too neatly, in the end, the ambition of the piece is all over the screen. 

ENEMY MINE (1985) / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: WOLFGANG PETERSEN / SCREENPLAY: EDWARD KHMARA / STARRING: DENNIS QUAID, LOUIS GOSSETT JR., BRION JAMES, RICHARD MARCUS / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 20TH


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