Beyond Borders

Beyond Borders


Reviewed by: Josh Morrall

It is understandable that this film was ignored emphatically by both American and British audiences. We, the public, are happy with our comfortable existence in our deliciously developed world. Sure, we're sympathetic towards starving people in Ethiopia and Uganda and Cambodia and Kosovo, but don't really want to be made to feel guilty about not making a donation to Oxfam this month by watching two hours of dying kids. Hence why the film has been left to die its death on DVD.

Beyond Borders is about Sarah Jordan's (Angelina Jolie) personal development from sympathetic socialite to devout relief worker. She is enchanted by the passionate/vulgar Nick Callahan (Clive Owen) when he storms a charity event in order to plead for more support in Ethiopia. The film drifts between Sarah's conventional existence at home and the unfeasible romance that unfolds between Sarah and Nick as they struggle to help the starving people of nations at war.

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Jolie adopted her son Maddox half way through the filming of this epic romantic tale and it also led to her becoming a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN, so the film had a clear impact on her. Despite this, she is not right for the role.

Owen is also out of place. Again, nothing wrong with his performance, but, as with Jolie's character, another star could have made a better and more comfortable job of it. The film has potential and could have been a bigger hit had Owen not been attached, as he is not a box office draw. Pairing him up with Jolie is far from pant wettingly exciting and, perhaps, with more renowned actors in the lead roles, this film could have gained the audience it deserves.

The story holds nothing new and crafts two-dimensional characters that the actors, especially Jolie, do well to add depth to. Nick Callahan is constantly aggressive and loses any remote trace of charm after the first five minutes. Owen carries this off well, but at the price of invalidating the later scenes between himself and Jolie when he proclaims his love for her. They remain both uncomfortable and unnatural.

The script also fails to build a meaningful relationship between Nick and Sarah during their first encounter in Ethiopia. When they meet again, they are suddenly very vocal about their undying love, no hint of which was present previously. This hole in development leaves the rest of their relationship feeling empty and because the vital stage of early feelings has been abandoned, everything that occurs between them afterwards is meaningless.

That said, the film is beautifully shot, the lighting and colouring drawing out the atmosphere of scenes in both hot and cold climates, doing what the script fails to do. There are some genuinely shocking moments, the beauty of the desert panorama contrasts the horrific images of decaying human life that lies within it. Also shocking is the film's unexpected, yet honest, climax that is notably brave for a big budget movie, although it paid for its courage at the box office.

The two hours are a battle because the emotion this film incites is overwhelming hopelessness. Beyond Borders communicates its message well and is commendable in that it strays outside the limits of a typical Hollywood storyline and forces you to remember that no matter who you are, or where you live, man is as expendable as desert dust.

Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2004
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Beyond Borders packshot
American socialite becomes infatuated with British aid worker in Ethiopia.
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Director: Martin Campbell

Writer: Caspian Tredwell-Owen

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen, Teri Polo, Linus Roache, Noah Emmerich, Yorick Van Wageningen, Timothy West, Kate Trotter

Year: 2003

Runtime: 127 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/Germany


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