Angelina Jolie (pronounced "Joe-Lee", not
"Jolly", in case you bump into her at the local book store) stars in
this film that the studio seems to be presenting as a love story.
In her personal life, Angelina Jolie has taken a great interest in
helping people. And, a major thrust of the film seems to be to
show human suffering in various parts of the world. As it's not
particularly relevant to the plot, the Masked Reviewer will reveal what
parts of the world are shown: starving people in Africa, people with
limbs blown off in Cambodia, and Chechnyan people in a war zone.
And, that's part of the problem. The horrible suffering of
people isn't relevant to the plot, other than being a backdrop for this
And, that's the other part of the problem. It's not really much
of a love story.
Clive Owen (from Gosford Park (2001) and The Bourne
Identity (2002)) plays the impetuous, passionate, surly love
interest. He hates human suffering. Ooh, it makes him mad.
And Jolie's character finds that very appealing. Who wouldn't?
The trouble with the film begins with the fact that they use real
horrors in the world for dramatic effect. Sure, it's done all the
time. But, because they don't really dig very deep into those
problems, it feels like they're copping a quick feel from the breasts of
serious issues. It's a cheap way to inject emotion into a film.
Effective, yes. But good filmmaking? No. Are we moved
because the filmmaker created a situation that we can relate to, or are
we reacting to images independent of the film? It's as if someone
put a clip of the World Trade Center towers coming down on 9-11.
People will react.
Such is the case with Beyond Borders. Starving kids make people
sad (especially the makers of SlimFast). But, those images are
used and not really dealt with; they go off to another "hot spot" of
A weird side-effect of this is that you can't help compare the three
areas of human suffering. After the starving kids in Africa, the
Cambodians with missing limbs don't seem that bad off. At least
they have water and food! And, the fighting in Chechnya?
They don't look like they need help after the other two places. They
have clothing, food, and vehicles. Sure, there's gunfights and
explosions, but it doesn't seem bad at all, and ... well...that's
probably not what they were going for.
The feelings that develop between Angelina Jolie's character and
Clive Owen's character isn't well developed. Is it physical?
There's a lot of hostility and not much else. They don't get many
scenes together that show the reason for their strong feelings. As
a result, it seems like maybe they both got into helping people in order
to get laid. Not that's a bad reason. It's how
Florence Nightingale got started, after all.
The cinematography is quite impressive, however. They do a good
job of showing the beauty of the countrysides contrasted with the
horrors happening in each country.
It seems the images weren't gruesome enough, because they added a lot
of flies digitally. The flies don't look quite right, and it's
clear that they're fake. How hard is it to get real flies?
Can a bucket of live flies actually be more expensive than hiring a team
of digital artists? Wouldn't real flies look better? Are the
union fees too high? Is that the problem? Flies have some
kind of collective bargaining agreement? Just use flies!
The music in the film is not good. Slow, simple, repetitive.
It tries to be elegant and moving, but fails. Music shouldn't
detract from a movie, in the Masked Reviewer's opinion.
The acting is good, though. Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen carry
the entire film, and they do a capable job. They aren't able to
transcend the other problems in the film and really suck the viewers in,
Who will like this film? If you love Angelina Jolie, you'll be
impressed with her performance. If you love Angelina Jolie for
other reasons...no, there's no nudity, sorry. If you like to see
images of human suffering, you might get a kick out of Beyond Borders
because they show a lot of it. It's almost like a really long
Sally Struthers "Save the Children" commercial.
Not a big fan of people using real life horror to inject feeling into an
uninteresting and poorly developed story about two people? You
might want to pass on Beyond Borders. At 127 minutes
running time, and featuring a lot of slow, dull music, some might
be inclined to refer to this film as Beyond Boredom, but that
would just be mean.
If you have to go, don't expect a light romantic comedy.
Expectation from the Title: When Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks,
and Amazon.com all run out of copies of "The Life and Times of John
Favreau", a loyal fan turns to his favorite bookstore as his last hope.
But when they don't have it, he must keep searching.
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
That Clive Owen looks a little bit like a young Mel Gibson, and Angelina
Jolie is always very presentable.
The Pros: Beautiful cinematography, good performances.
The Cons: Bad character development, plot relies on external
images to create emotion, leaving an empty experience.