Beyond Borders
review by Gregory Avery, 31 October 2003

In Beyond Borders, Angelina Jolie -- she of the bruised lips and limpid eyes -- plays Sarah, who, in her white strapless gown and pearls, has no sooner finished pogoing to "Should I Stay or Should I Go" on the dance floor of a London formal-dress charity benefit in 1984 than she is knocked to one side by Nick (Clive Owen), who angrily denounces everyone in the room for eating fancy foods and drinking fancy wine while he's scrambling to find food and medicine to help the starving Ethiopian child whom he's (exploitatively) brought along with him. Sarah is so moved that she takes a convoy of food to the refugee camp in (then) war-torn Ethiopia, where, along the way, she rescues a child being stalked by a vulture (just like in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph) -- the child expresses its gratitude by glaring at her in what looks like decidedly CGI-created eyes. Nick also expresses his gratitude by ridiculing Sarah for wearing perfume for a trip into the desert -- he'll later confer his approval by noting that she did not wear perfume when she treks into Cambodia to see him.

Owen's Nick is definitely the more interesting of the two: he asks for help from the international community by issuing such subtle statements that go something like, "They should get off their f**king asses and get the f**k down here!... It's the same s**t every time!" He also isn't above smuggling guns under prosthetic legs and medicine packages -- when a Cambodian officer (Burt Kwouk) finds them, he starts switching Nick with what looks like a car radio antennae, until Jolie's Sarah steps in and really puts the kicks in! (All that training for the Lara Croft movies.) Later, after the scene with the baby and the live hand grenade, she and Nick will lead a long line of refugees, through the jungle, through the rain, to a Red Cross camp on the Vietnamese border, after which they will make passionate (but discretely-presented) love, then make cute post-coital banter. (He: "Shall I ring down for room service?" She: "Chocolate cake, and air conditioning. That would be lovely." They're in a tent, mind you.)

In part, this is a movie about Angelina Jolie's hair. Engaged in a serious conversation with her sister (Teri Polo, who's good), one can only notice how her hair falls in little bangs over her forehead. In the Cambodian jungle, the rain only makes it look darker, fuller, and more flowing. This is probably because her hair stylings are the most dramatic thing about her in this movie. The girl has serious emotive problems -- she seems to have retreated as an actress over the years -- and her line deliveries, even in SDDS sound, can become as low and muzzily inaudible as in Tomb Raider (and she isn't even using an accent, here). I am aware that, in real life, she is engaged in actual humanitarian work in some of the places that also turn up in the movie, but one gets the impression that the film expects is to give it extra points just for dealing with the subject of relief aid to begin with, and that Jolie wants us to read a lot more into her earnstwhile presence, here, than is actually there. She is not terribly expressive; when she tries to be really expressive, she gets goggle-eyed.

The film uses its first episode, in Ethiopia, to point up famine relief, the second the problem with land mines. (The bodies and ruined limbs are presented decorously in both.) The third, though, is devoted to rescuing not famine victims or victims of political terror but to rescuing Nick, disappeared somewhere into war-torn Chechnya, the current troublespot-du-jour.

Amid landscapes and backdrops of black, grays, and ghostly whites, Sarah, in a fetching (hopefully fake) fur hat and dark coat, runs across the snow with bullet-pocked Nick, and they look like something out of a second-rate version of Doctor Zhivago, where Yuri and Lara were trying to outrun the Bolsheviks. When one of the characters steps on a landmine and goes poof! you have a most unpleasant reaction.

The film makes you think -- of Audrey Hepburn, who knew something about hunger when she and her family lived in the Netherlands under Nazi occupation, devoting the last 20 years of her live to famine aid in Africa and getting an international ban on land mines going when nobody else was interested. Of Médicines sans Frontières, and the volunteer medics in the documentary Afghanistan Year 1370 who were performing truly heroic and selfless work. Sarah's husband (played, thanklessly, by Linus Roache, who is made to look like a drip) stays at home, even after she has caught him cheating on her, to look after two kids, one of whom isn't even his own. "We'll talk about everything when I get back," instructs Sarah, wearing the latest in international relief chic, as she pushes her luggage out the door to save the world.

Directed by:
Martin Campbell

Angelina Jolie
Clive Owen
Teri Polo
Linus Roache
Yorick Van Wageningen
Nambitha Mpumlwana
Burt Kwouk 
Noah Emmerich

Written by:
Caspian Tredwell-Owen

R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult






  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.