As a rich American marrying into a lavish English lifestyle, Sarah (Angelina
Jolie) is about to embark on a life of ease and expectation. Her life is changed
when Nick (Clive Owen, "The Bourne Identity") drops violently into her world. A
radical and defeated relief aid worker, Nick inspires Sarah to join the cause,
traveling to Africa to witness the horrors of starvation and political
malfeasance first hand. At first, Sarah's inexperience tests Nick's patience,
but he soon develops feelings for her. Over the course of the next ten years,
traveling to Cambodia and the former Soviet Union in the process, the two will
continue to intertwine in each others lives, while trying to save the lives of
others who are less fortunate.
"Beyond Borders" (IMDb listing) has an idealism that fits in perfectly with today's
increasingly distressed world, yet a story as moldy as week-old bread. 40 years
ago, "Borders" would've starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, featured a
running time of 4 hours, and effectively blown minds on the humanitarian crisis
found in every populated continent on earth. But here, in technologically
advanced 2003, the world is a much smaller place. The cinematic techniques used
in "Beyond Borders" to creep inside the sympathetic minds of the audience are
antiquated, resulting in a film without much of a pulse, though its bleeding
heart pumps tirelessly.
There are striking similarities between "Borders," and another proficient
refugee film from this past spring, "Tears of the Sun." Both pictures were
earnestly committed to bringing the plight of third-world nations to the big
screen, using good old fashioned star power ("Tears" had Bruce Willis) to do all
the work. I find it wonderful that the two productions are shedding light on a
very important cause, even going so far to hand out tiny little factoid lectures
on the shape the refugee nations are currently in. But the nobility in both
films is far more than any type of dramatic framework can bear.
"Borders" isn't content to be a simple lecture on how the audience can help the
cause, it's also a 60 million dollar production, spanning continents and one
decade, so it buckles under pressure to become a giant soap opera as well. The
film isn't a love story so much as an adventure and a world-events tale, but the
production is too big not to attempt a safer route of appeal. Director Martin
Campbell has always been a solid, if terribly uninspired director ("Goldeneye,"
"The Mask Of Zorro"), and "Beyond Borders" suffers from his leaden touch. Torn
between making a film detailing the relief aid reality and a love story between
Sarah and Nick, Campbell fails to spark any kind of fire, even though the story
is set in a tinder box of emotions and political fireworks. What ends up in the
movie is merely serviceable on both sides of the coin, and oddly passionless as
it plays out on the screen.
While this is obviously a labor of love from star Angelina Jolie, whose own
child is of Cambodian descent, the actress fails to break out of the doldrums
the picture keeps her in. Jolie summons oceans of tears and makes passionate
faces of thought at the camera, but it's an unusually inhibited performance from
the deeply talented performer. Fairing better in his first big starring role is
Clive Owen, who's natural steeliness benefits his character. Owen is given some
hefty speeches as part of his dialog, but he manages to balance out the sanctity
of the language with the defeat in his eyes. It's a tremendous performance.
In a last ditch effort to draw out at least something poignant from the
audience, the film kicks into tragedy gear without much provocation. Whatever
noble intentions "Borders" had at this point are effectively erased by the
careless way it ends. Much like the worlds painted in primary colors by the
film, the passions and nobility of "Beyond Borders" seem a million miles away.
Filmfodder Grade: C