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
(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
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
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
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.