Dir: Martin Campbell. US. 2003. 127 mins.
If the sweeping war-torn romance Beyond Borders had been made in the 1940s or 1950s with Ingrid Bergman or Ava Gardner in the lead role, it might have been a beloved classic. But times and tastes have changed. The Angelina Jolie version of 2003 is a barmy saga with a big heart but zero credibility and numerous unintentionally funny moments. In an era where the gut-wrenching realism of Black Hawk Down or Platoon is the norm, an old-fashioned epic like Beyond Borders stands out like a sore, slightly embarrassing, thumb. Box office response will be muted thanks to unkind reviews and a marketplace which is so crowded with adult fare that a well-intentioned failure like this won't be able to keep its head above water for long. It is also unlikely to be a must-see for the over-30 women's audience since Jolie has yet to achieve status in that sector; nor will her dwindling Tomb Raider fan base support the film which is aimed squarely at grown-ups. It will find its biggest audience on the small screen.
Beyond Borders is hard to swallow from the opening scene in which belligerent international relief doctor Nick Callahan (Clive Owen) storms into a swanky fund-raising ball in London to beg for more support for children under his care in Africa.
He is arrested (and the African child he has bought with him as a mascot dies of hypothermia!) but in the meantime he has awoken the conscience of naïve wealthy American woman Sarah Jordan (Jolie) who is engaged to English aristocrat Henry Beauford (Roache). Jordan decides to invest all her savings in truckloads of supplies for Callahan's camp in Namibia and accompanies the trucks. Once at the camp, she begins to realise the futility of her gesture, and determines to devote herself to the cause while also falling for Callahan.
Sarah starts to work for the United Nations on her return to the UK, gets on with her marriage and has a child, but years later is drawn back into Callahan's world when she travels to Cambodia to bring him some more supplies. And finally, when Callahan is kidnapped some years later in Chechnya, she realises her love for him and goes in to rescue him.
Jolie barely breaks a sweat in her crisp white linens as she glides, oversized-lips a quiver, among the dying in Africa, Asia and Europe. Owen is more convincing as the angry doctor, although his impossible good looks and handsome tan merely add to the sense of celluloid exoticism which is so evident here.
Ironically Oliver Stone had developed the project and was set to direct it, but dropped out to be replaced by Martin Campbell. The two approaches are like chalk and cheese. Stone traditionally aims for unflinching realism. Campbell has shown adeptness in delivering big slick thrills in blockbusters like GoldenEye, The Mask Of Zorro and Vertical Limit.
And Campbell does deliver a serviceable love story here with a syrupy James Horner score to boot; but an old-style love story set against the starvation and genocide of today's war zones seems neither educational nor appropriate.
Prod cos: Camelot Pictures, Mandalay Pictures.
US dist: Paramount Pictures.
Int'l sales: Summit Entertainment.
Exec prod: J Geyer Kosinski.
Prods: Dan Halsted, Lloyd Phillips.
Scr: Caspian Tredwell-Owen.
DoP: Phil Meheux.
Prod des: Wolf Kroeger.
Ed: Nicholas Beauman.
Mus: James Horner.
Main cast: Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen, Teri Polo, Linus Roache, Noah Emmerich, Yorick Van Wageningen, Timothy West.