say your piece
 
ISSUE NO.154 23 OCT. 2003
 
 
theReel
Beyond Boring
By Jeremy Mathews
 

“Beyond Borders”
Paramount Pictures
Directed by Martin Campbell
Written by Caspian Tredwell-Owen
Produced by Dan Halsted and Lloyd Phillips
Starring Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen, Linus Roache, Teri Polo, Yorick van Wageningen and Noah Emmerich
Rated R
(out of four)

For a film about the chaos and conflicts of international aid efforts, “Beyond Borders” is impressively stiff. Every time a character moves or sets something down, it feels like a stage direction. Every time something dramatic happens, it feels dry and unconvincing. The only thing that amazed me during the film was that it made such a promising premise so astoundingly boring.

The screenplay undermines its most valuable asset by making that asset the backdrop for a bland love story. It jumps several years ahead at a time so that we can see its heroine, Sarah (Angelina Jolie), meet up with her love interest, Nick (Clive Owen). It’s poor storytelling because the stiff relationship is the least interesting part of the film.

The film follows Sarah on three increasingly chaotic—but consistently dry—meet-ups with Nick on his aid missions. She first meets him when he’s the idealistic doctor who crashes a lavish fund-raising party headed by her new husband’s father. Nick storms in with a starved Ethiopian child and explains that Sarah’s father-in-law has cut funding and is wasting money that could be used to feed the child on dinners and wine for supposedly compassionate donors.

The scene grows unconvincing when someone throws a banana on the floor in front of Nick to quell the spectacle. Most of the party attendees start clapping—not the standard reaction people who consider themselves compassionate would have to a racist action, especially if their hypocrisy was just shoved in their faces. It’s hard to believe Nick’s indignity when the whole scene is so contrived.

But the event sparks Sarah to spend her savings on a bunch of truckloads of food and bring it to Nick’s camp, where she soon learns that things aren’t as simple as she sees them and that not all lives can be saved.

Some of Sarah’s experiences serve as a window to an unknown world. These experiences would make an interesting film if there was a little drama that wasn’t forced.

There’s also a conflict evoked after the fund-raiser in which a mysterious man referred to as a “CIA agent” offers Nick funding in exchange for favors. A stubborn man with high morals who can’t even be diplomatic with national leaders, Nick, of course, turns him down. But later he has to consider compromising his ideals in order to help all the hungry people.

This whole set-up is interesting, but the love story holds it below the surface, with only occasional interesting bubbles rising up. The film not only wastes time with Nick, but also conjures up a cheap scene to justify Sarah cheating on her husband.

Jolie and Owen are talented actors, but have the misfortune of having nothing interesting to say. Owen gets in a few good moments as the iron-willed, cruelly honest Nick, but as soon as he starts interacting with Jolie, it becomes a mechanical love story with a lame, forced ending.

It appears that in an effort to pander to a mainstream audience, director Martin Campbell and screenwriter Caspian Tredwell-Owen compromised their real message. That might make a good film—if you threw in a love story.
jeremy@red-mag.com

 
     
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