Let me give you the rundown– as a kind of brilliant combination of ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS and THE DEFIANT ONES, ENEMY MINE has got all the requirements for solid 80s sci-fi:
Courtesy of the creature shop of FX legend Chris Walas (GREMLINS, THE FLY, DRAGONSLAYER, ARACHNOPHOBIA, SCANNERS). Pictured above is a kind of Sarlaac-y thing that nearly devours Dennis Quaid, but Walas' finest work is on the Draconians, the lead alien species in the film
(demonstrated here by the always fantastic Lou Gossett, Jr.), whose pulsating nodules and detailed reptilian skin is a testament to the genius of practical effects and the patience of actors.
Also, as more Draconians appear throughout the film, I realized that the species was obviously a trial run for Walas' work on the Mugwumps six years later in David Cronenberg's NAKED LUNCH:
Though marketed to a younger, thrill-seeking demographic, ENEMY MINE is a thoughtful rumination on a number of subjects, including racial and religious tolerance, the rigidity of gender roles, war profiteering, and institutionalized hate. Like Peterson's prior THE NEVERENDING STORY– which trumpeted the power of imagination in a period of rank consumerism– ENEMY MINE has a big heart, and it's in the right place, too. I was about to ask why this film isn't more widely known, and I think I just answered my own question.
#3. Dennis Quaid with a beard.
Like Kurt Russell, he's one of the rare actors who fits his beard like a glove. Which just gave me the wild thought that this could have easily worked as a Kurt Russell vehicle with Keith David as the Draconian.
#4. Brion James.
'Cause it's just not a sci-fi actioner without him. Playing a savage slaver/bandit kingpin, he's directly responsible for more than 90% of the crazy-eye in ENEMY MINE.
James menaces Dennis Quaid.
Above, he's even 'replicating' (pun intended, I suppose) the pose and delivery of the famous "Wake up, time to die" scene in BLADE RUNNER:
James menaces Harrison Ford.
And though this film is more intellectual than the usual mainstream genre fare, it still manages to embrace the subtle joys of, say, Brion James dangling a child from a cyberpunky catwalk above a stream of lava, or whatever.
Also, Brion James probably should have been in TERMINATOR 2.