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Beyond Borders

  Beyond Borders
Angelina Jolie mistakes Clive Owen for her brother.

© 2003, Paramount
All Rights Reserved

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

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