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Enemy Mine has a surprising amount of depth and cleverness in presenting its situation and plumbing the depths of intolerance in Dennis Quaid’s Davidge. Given its release date of 1985, when Rambo II was the zenith of foreign relations as presented in popular culture, I expected Enemy Mine to follow something along these lines in its presentation. So, the depth given to Lou Gossett Jr.’s Jeriba was pleasantly surprising.

Davidge has a hatred of the Dracs, Jeriba’s race, which could probably have stood some backstory. His abhorrence of them seemingly comes from their ongoing dogfights in space but it still comes across as unnaturally deep. He and Jeriba, or “Jerry” as Davidge nicknames him, both crash land on an uninhabitable, forsaken bit of rock as the result of one such dogfight. Though they initially seek to continue their species’ conflict, the knowledge that no one is likely to rescue them and each is possibly the other’s only company for life forces them to cohabitate. I admired the fact that loneliness was used as a factor that influenced their bond, that something deeper than mere survival necessitated their camaraderie.

The most impressive thing about the script is the layering of prejudice initiated by the race of the Dracs. In just one character Davidge is forced to deal with racial, religious and sexual intolerance as a being from another planet teaches him about his religion. Dracs also have both male and female sexual characteristics and reproduce without partners, as evidenced in the film. Each of these intolerances is slowly whittled away as Davidge and Jerry come to know one another through simply having no one else with whom to spend time. Some of the naming details border on goofy, such as “Draconian” as a race or Jerry’s religious tome, which if I read correctly is called the “Talmud.”

Quaid gives a solid, well rounded performance as the bigoted Davidge, coming around well and not rushing the change in his character. Gossett gives a fantastic performance as the Draconian Jerry. He maintains a very unworldly accent and hissing pronunciation of the English he learns from Davidge. He portrays Jerry as a sympathetic, wise and even tempered figure, though he initially matches Davidge’s early abuses with his own. The third act introduction of space slavers takes the film into a bit of an unnecessary action set up, which is closer to what I expected going in than the more deep exploration of friendship and tolerance that comes from the first two acts. That said, it introduces the tragically underrated Brion James as the leader of the mining crew. His cruelty toward his Draconian slaves, one particularly close to Davidge, drives Davidge to do some really stupid things when attacking them. But James performance is enjoyable as always.

Enemy Mine was a refreshingly profound film for its time and subject matter. The characters were handled with respect and the Draconian race treated as something truly unique. The need to drive the action based climax drags down some of what was established but not enough to undo it, just slightly dull it. 3 ½ stars

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