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In 1985, Sarah Jordan (Angelina Jolie) recently married American woman from an upper-class background, is living in London with her husband Henry (Linus Roache). Her life changes when she meets Nick Callahan (Clive Owen), a doctor who works at an Ethiopian relief camp and is seeking support for his efforts. Sarah is moved to visit the camp, where she is deeply affected by what she encounters, as Nick and his team labour selflessly in impossible conditions, surrounded by pain and death.

Review by Jake Wilson:
Two kinds of extra-terrestrial: Angelina Jolie cradles a starving Ethiopian baby that goggles at her like a Spielberg mutant, the freaky pathos of its prominent ribcage enhanced by CGI. Presumably, the real subtext of the scene is the quest for recognisable humanity by an "actress" better known as a tabloid pin-up and video-game icon; last year's Hollywood definition of beauty, raspberry-colored lips hanging off a stiff waxen face.

Naturally, the doctor at the relief camp berates Jolie's character as a "poor little rich girl" on an ego trip. But as played by Clive Owen, this hardbitten but noble character is a Mills and Boon hero to his fingertips, while Beyond Borders itself is one long fantasy about noble, white, good-looking heroes jetting between world trouble spots and stopping at nothing to save lives.

Caspian Tredwell-Owen's quite intelligent script shows some signs of trying to grapple with its contradictions, and the film might not have been a total write-off if directed by someone other than Martin Campbell, still one of the most boring hacks in Hollywood. There's no internal tension to Campbell's use of the widescreen format - his approach is simply to plant a movie star in the foreground of the shot and have them respond "emotionally" to the vistas of colourful Third World suffering that stretch behind them.

The travelogue style makes it hard to believe in the idea of relief work as self-sacrifice - dying babies and all, sun-baked Africa and lush Cambodia sure look a whole lot more appealing than drab, rainy London. Defenders might rejoin that the use of melodrama to approach "human rights" issues at least provides more entertainment than Michael Winterbottom's dourly anti-Hollywood In This World.

But the idea of choosing between Campbell and Winterbottom as "socially committed" filmmakers is too depressing to think about. Back in London, we catch sight of Angelina on the other side of a rain-streaked window, pale skin stretched taut around her wide sad eyes, fingering out a Schumann lieder on the piano and musing in voiceover: "Maybe we are all refugees from something." Oh, good grief.

Published June 10, 2004

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(USA / Germany)

CAST: Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen, Teri Polo, Linus Roache, Noah Emmerich, Yorick van Wageningen, Timothy West

DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell

SCRIPT: Caspian Tredwell-Owen

RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Theatrical trailer, audio commentary - behind the lines, writing Beyond Borders: a conversation with Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Angelina Jolie: Goodwill Ambassador and subtitles for the hearing impaired.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: June 10, 2004

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