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Review: In Enemy Hands

Why can’t we all just get along?

1.5
U-Boat
Photo: Lions Gate Films

Why can’t we all just get along? In Enemy Hands begins as a rote you-sunk-my-battleship adventure pitting the crew of the U.S.S. Swordfish against the German sub U-429, but when the latter seizes the former, things take a turn for the hammy.

Director Tony Giglio’s literal-minded use of split screen augments everything that’s wrong with this single-minded ode to international camaraderie and American perseverance. The film looks great but seems as if it were written for Lifetime. Needless to say, it’s probably a given that it pales in comparison to every film of this sort that’s come before it, from Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot to Kathryn Bigelow’s K-19: The Widowmaker.

The cloying screenplay strains for parallelism, giving each American a doppelganger on the “Kraut” side, ostensibly to hammer home the point that if you prick us do we not bleed. The English-speaking Fregattenkapitan played by Til Schweiger is no different than the equally democratic chief played by William H. Macy, and the American pinups (Jeremy Sisto and Ian Somerhalder among them) are as pig-headed as the rat-like German boys.

After an angry German cuts short the cloying exchange of family photographs between his doe-eyed comrade and a whiny Somerhalder (remember, Germans can have families too), the film decides that the only way it can force a serious emotional connect between both sides is to introduce a disease to the sub. And so meningitis scares the shit out of everyone, and it’s up to America and Germany to put their differences aside for the sake of their mutual survival.

Alliances are made, moustaches are twirled, and mutinies are engaged, with fantasies from the American motherland (read: ripped from the pages of House & Garden) interspersed throughout. “Never forget the enemy,” says someone at one point. But is the enemy the guy on the opposite side or that big block of ice inside your heart? I think we’re meant to decide.

Cast: William H. Macy, Til Schweiger, Scott Cann, Lauren Holly, Thomas Kretschmann, Rene Heger, Matt Lindquist, Jeremy Sisto, Ian Somerhalder Director: Tony Giglio Screenwriter: John E. Deaver, Tony Giglio Distributor: Lions Gate Films Running Time: 95 min Rating: NR Year: 2004 Buy: Video

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