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Species is no barrier to friendship
on May 7, 2000
Adapted from Barry B Longyear's novella, "Enemy Mine" could almost be a stage play. Only two actors at a time take up the majority of screen time. The sets could be taken out of the original Lost in Space studio lot and there's not enough action to keep most kids interested. Despite this, the film is terrific. It's one of those rare stories that concentrate on the subtle interaction between the characters while taking them on a moral journey.
Have I put any of the Sci-Fi geeks off their breakfast yet? Well okay, this is a science fiction movie. But it didn't have to be. The story throws two indelible enemies together, on a desolate and dangerous planet. After trying to continue their struggle, a truce is eventually called as they both realise cooperation is necessary for their survival. Despite their common need, differences in culture, politics and religion continue to wear on their partnership. And it is this constant friction which works to build their bond, almost against their will.
Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr play the two characters I've described. They are Davidge, (a human soldier), and Jerry, (a Draco soldier). Their respective names are those used for convenience, given their lack of ability in each other's language. At the start, neither speaks anything but swearwords in the enemy's tongue. Naturally, this adds another layer of tension to the situation.
I've always liked Denis Quaid's acting. He is very likeable in all of his films but in Enemy Mine we see a lot more depth of pain and caring than he usually portrays. Louis Gosset Jr however, is the true star of the film. He does a superb job of conveying his alien essence. His physical attributes, posture, movement and reactions are obviously modelled on reptiles and he makes it all seem perfectly natural.
I can't really convey the path these two enemies take towards friendship, which is a pity, since it is the best feature of the film. Suffice to say that they do eventually grow close, just in time to share in the first Draco birth witnesses by a human. Unfortunately the birth goes badly and Jerry dies, leaving Davidge to take responsibility for raising the child, Zammis. And Davidge takes this task very seriously; teaching the youngster his race's language, heritage and religion.
My only disappointment is that the film did not portray the events after Davidge's rescue in the same detail as Longyear wrote it. We are given only a brief glimpse of the prejudice and revilement that he goes through as he displays his love for one of humanities hated rivals. But we do get to experience the most moving part of the tale, as Davidge accompanies the adolescent Zammis to the home planet of the Dracos, to present him at his naming day. An event the two of them have been working towards for years, where Zammis has to name all of his ancestors, their affiliation and relationships. An event that would not have been possible without Davidge acting as a bridge of love across the span of two generations and two species.