In 1984, Angelina Jolie has just married into English society when a charity ball she isattending is crashed by Clive Owen, who rails against phony, self-serving gestures towardsforeign aid. Stung, Jolie travels to Ethiopia to work with Owen at a refugee camp during thefamine. She finds her calling. The film then jumps forward, and we see Jolie periodically leavingEngland and her failing marriage to travel to a hot spot (Cambodia, Chechnya). Each time, herrelationship with …he driven Owen reaches a new intensity.
One can’t help but get the uncomfortable feeling that, for all its good intentions, BeyondBorders is guilty of the very thing it attacks in the opening scene. Though the miserableconditions of refugees is graphically rendered, it is ultimately a picturesque backdrop to theromance of two pretty white people. Most dubious is the deployment of a CGI starving Ethiopianorphan, unleashed with full horror-movie force on the audience. The film is gorgeously shot, buteven that is a problem: we are invited to gaze on the pleasing aesthetics of starvation and misery.The result, though certainly interesting enough, is what you might get if Lara Croft and JamesBond (the characters, not the actors) broke free of their franchises and decided they wanted tomake a Serious Issues Movie together.
There might be one or two missed opportunities for surround effects (some applause in theopening sequence is one example), but not many. The placement is excellent (a truck’s engineroars from rear to front as the vehicle bursts in from the top of the screen). The overallenvironment creation is very successful. The left-right separation is strong, and the dialogue isclear and undistorted.
The picture is very good too. The colours are warm and rich, demonstrate and active andvaried pallette, and are, in a word, glorious. (This is, as mentioned above, one of the points atwhich the film’s aesthetics and ethics collide.) The image is sharp, and the blacks are very good.There is a little bit of grain, more noticeable in the opening shots of Jolie’s home, but in generalthe grain is at an absolute minimum. The aspect ratio is the full 2.35:1 anamorphicwidescreen.
Director Martin Campbell and producer Lloyd Phillips do the commentary. They arearticulate and informative, and are interesting on both the technical aspects and the politicalconcerns of the film. Their enthusiasm is engaging, even if one might dispute their sense of theirachievement. “Beyond the Lines: The Making of Beyond Borders” is a documentary divided intotwo twenty-minute parts. We’re in the usual featurette area, but the extra time allows more in-depth coverage. One more making-of featurette is “Writing Beyond Borders” is an interview withscreenwriter Caspian Tredwell-Owen. There is also a three-and-a-half minute piece about Jolie asa goodwill ambassador to the UN High Commission on Refugees. Lastly: trailers for Tupac:Resurrection, Timeline, Paycheck, The Perfect Score. The menu is,surprisingly for a major release, basic.
Fundamentally, romance and realistic depictions of refugee camps are an uneasy and ill-advised mix. The film is rather interesting because of that very flaw, though.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- “Behind the Lines: The Making of Beyond Borders”
- “Angelina: Goodwill Ambassador” Featurette
- “The Writing of Beyond Borders” Featurette