Beyond Borders

There is a right way to do things, and a wrong way to do things. Spotlighting the plight of war refuges is an important task, but Beyond Borders goes about it all wrong. It's a terrible shame too, since this matter weighs heavily on the heart of Angelina Jolie. Jolie (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Life or Something Like It) is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, and has traveled the world to learn more about the plight of refuges. A stint in Cambodia for Tom Raider moved her deeply, enough so that the change in her was palpable (including the adoption of a Cambodian child). Beyond Borders spans three wars and a decade, and manages to trivialize everything meaningful and important that Jolie is trying to say, and replaces it with hackneyed storytelling.

The purpose is to link the three events together, to make it seem more important. People across the globe face the same problems. In order to do this, first-time screenwriter Caspian Tredwell-Owen uses a protracted romance between Sarah Jordan (Jolie) and aid worker Nick Callahan (Clive Owen, The Bourne Identity, Gosford Park). Callahan opens Sarah's eyes at a fundraising dinner, where he brings in an emaciated child from Africa. Callahan's purpose was to embarrass the donors, who cut off his aid because conditions were too dangerous. The sight of the child moves Sarah profoundly. She promptly decides to donate a sizable amount of her cash and personally deliver relief supplies to Nick. Sarah's husband Henry (Linus Roache, Hart's War, Pandaemonium) objects. Nick is the most simplistic character in Tredwell-Owen's script. His sole job is to hold Sarah back from what she wants to do, and it is a wonder she does not divorce him.

Instead, she falls for Nick. This is a fact, since the two cannot stand each other when they first meet. He thinks she is naive for thinking she can make a difference, while she thinks him arrogant. Still, he has his strong principles about helping others, and will throw himself into danger to do this. This is what Sarah admires. Years later, Sarah is working for the United Nations, and meets up again with Nick, this time in Cambodia. Facing the realities of politics and war, Nick now does some work for CIA. In exchange, he gets money and supplies that he can use towards relief. There is still a passion between the two, and Sarah is still married and now has a son. When she learns of Nick's arrangement, it disgusts her. The two cross paths again when she gets word that Nick has gone missing in Chechnya, the most dangerous place yet. She embarks on a mission to find him, and tell him how she feels.

By letting the romance drive the story instead of the refugees, director Martin Campbell (Vertical Limit, The Mask of Zorro) unintentionally says that they are not important. It seems like Sarah is going across the world to see Nick, not to take care of refugees. Moreover, the romance never feels like it has time to develop. It isn't there, then it is in full force. Owen does give an intense performance, but does not provide the charisma necessary for people to sympathize with him. He initially comes off as a jerk, and does nothing to materially change this assessment of him. And he is right about Sarah too. She is naive. And quite dull. If it wasn't for the fact that Jolie's intentions are so earnest, this would be a great example of a horrible vanity project, where the actor is just indulging him/herself.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
2 hours, 7 minutes, Rated R for language and war-related violence.

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