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Beyond Borders (2003)

Jenseits aller Grenzen

Where hope survives.

Directed by:

Martin Campbell

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 127 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15


Angelina Jolie loves doing a bit of charity work. It’s one of her favourite things. She loves it so much that she’s spent time as an official Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N., she’s adopted her very own Cambodian refugee child, and she often takes her clothes off. Okay, so that last bit doesn’t really have anything to do with her charity work – but you have to admit, she does do it a Helluva lot.

Anyway, the point is that you’d think, given her background, ‘Beyond Borders’ would be the perfect movie for her. She plays Sarah Jordan, a UN worker and habitual do-gooder who ploughs her own money into aiding 1980s famine-struck Ethiopia. While there, she meets the arsey-but-charitable Dr Nick Callahan (Clive Owen). Amid the pain, suffering and starvation of the Third Worlders, sparks fly (well, sort of), and the pair gradually fall in love.

It’s an unusual film in that it manages to hold the attention without ever really being any good. Over a period spanning eleven years, it takes us on to Cambodia, home of landmines and Gary Glitter, and then to Chechnya, land of big furry hats and people disappearing at random, with lengthy stop-offs at London in-between. But the border it crosses most often is the one between stilted romantic interlude and weak Aid Relief drama that could almost as easily have been titled ‘Bob Geldof Investigates’.

Jolie, for all her first-hand experience, spends the bulk of the film looking bored witless, and not for a second does she convince us of her feelings for either her love interest or the huddled masses. And then there’s the inadvertently-deadpan Owen, doing ten rounds with sincerity and coming off the worst (try not to cringe as he spouts lines like “I’m no warrior – I’m in the relief business”).

As for the rest of the characters, they’re a one-dimensional lot, from the faceless famine-sufferers, to the unintelligible foreign militants, to the black lady truck-driver who spews out stats off the top of her head. Precious little care or attention seems to have been put into writing them, and even their looks are a slap-dash job. Sure, there’s some impressive CGI used in an early part of the film to turn a normal child actor into an emaciated famine victim, but none of the rest of them ever seem to age despite the time-frame, and nothing seems to have been done during the Eighties period to make them look – well – like they’re from the Eighties. Where are the mullets? The leg-warmers? The offensively-coloured eye shadow?

Essentially, ‘Beyond Borders’ is a film that can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be a politically-minded “message movie”, or a sprawling romantic epic – with the result that it gets neither part right. It takes far too long to get anywhere (with the result that it’s final half-hour seems rushed), it’s sloppily written, and the point of it all – if there even is one – gets lost on the way. And it’s a long, long way.

It's Got: Iain Lee (yup, the bloke from ‘The Eleven O’Clock Show’ and ‘RI:SE’) doing stand-up on Maggie Thatcher and Band Aid.

It Needs: Lenny Henry standing in the background, cawing loudly and wearing a silver tuxedo dotted with red noses.

DVD Extras ‘Behind the Lines’ featurette, writing ‘Beyond Borders’, cast interviews (featuring Jolie with really big hair – now THAT’S what the Eighties scenes should have been like!), director’s commentary, a piece on the star’s Goodwill Ambassador work. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10


Cry Freedom, Salvador, The Killing Fields, Welcome to Sarajevo


Walk straight past your local DVD store and give your money to Comic Relief instead – you’ll feel better about it, and they’ll give you a more entertaining night’s viewing for your trouble.

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