One could say Angelina Jolie has tried to go “Beyond
Borders” in her new film by attempting to escape Lara Croft,
and of course Billy Bob, as she tries to once again claim the
position of a thought-provoking, Oscar-winning dramatic actress.
However, Jolie gets trapped beneath the burden of the film’s
narcissistic attempt to give an enlightened approach to starvation,
death and relief work in third world countries.
“Beyond Borders” could possibly succeed in exposing
the dark side of relief work if it was done with a raw edge, but
instead it completes its prophecy as being an overly commercialized
film focusing on a far-fetched star-crossed love epic.
Jolie plays Sarah, a well-to-do American, who after hearing
about the financial woes of relief work in Africa suddenly feels
the pangs of guilt for living her cushy life in London. She leaves
her husband and goes to Ethiopia clad in a designer white-linen
outfit, which is a staple in the scenes where the images of
starvation and death are the strongest.
Amid the white linen and harsh realities of Ethiopia, Sarah
meets Dr. Nick Callahan (Clive Owen, “Gosford Park”),
the rough and tumble leader of the relief program. Owen is the one
person that shines in the film, making up for the pitfalls with his
dark charm. Unfortunately, to be expected, a classic formula is
achieved: 1) Nick is rude to Sarah for being a spoiled girl trying
to save the world because of her personal guilt trip, 2) She then
finds his rudeness intriguing, 3) He begins to see her for who she
really is, 4) Five years and three days of actual interaction
later, they reveal their love for each other. But the two lovers
acknowledge they could never truly be together so their desire is
left to simmer as Sarah returns home to be with her husband and
raise an illegitimate child.
The love struggle and trips to war-torn countries continues over
the span of a decade as Sarah begins working for the United
Nations. “Beyond Borders” finally reaches true dramatic
conflict after two hours, when Sarah has a feeling Nick is in
trouble and flees to Chechnya to research his sudden disappearance.
Alas, she does find him using little effort and having magical ties
to Chechnyan gangs.
“Beyond Borders” does succeed in showing stark
images of relief work. It truly becomes a shame director Martin
Campbell (“Goldeneye”) wasn’t able to deliver a
full narrative on relief work, which could have given the film the
impact the love story simply does not offer up.
Rating: 1.5 stars.