Film Reviews: Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Man of Her Owen

You’ll need some relief if you make it to the end of Beyond Borders.


If you’re like me, you’re probably asking yourself, “When did Angelina Jolie become a boring actress?” (By the way, if you talk to yourself like that, don’t feel bad. I do it, too. It helps me organize my thoughts wonderfully.) The answer, sadly, is when she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1999 for a strong though not Oscar-worthy performance in Girl, Interrupted. Her résumé since then has been dispiriting — Gone in 60 Seconds, the Lara Croft movies, Original Sin, Life or Something Like It. Truth be told, the movies she did before her Oscar victory weren’t that much better, but the star quality she showed as a troubled supermodel in the HBO tv movie Gia and as a party girl in Playing by Heart was undeniable. Her unconventional beauty, ripe sexuality, and all-out emotional approach to her roles make her a volatile presence onscreen. Those qualities don’t seem to have diminished and could easily be brought out to good effect if she ever encountered a decent script and/or a director who knew how to cast her. She doesn’t find either in her current film, Beyond Borders.

This despite the fact that it looks good for its first half hour. That’s because of its star power, though not Jolie’s. It’s her English co-star Clive Owen who commands the screen in the early going. He plays Nick, a doctor who travels the globe and risks his life bringing medical treatment and famine relief to the world’s poor and war-torn regions. The movie begins in 1984, as Nick crashes a London charity organization’s gala ball with a malnourished African child in tow, determined to wreck the party and draw attention to the fact that his clinic has just lost its funding.

Owen first became a star three years ago as a cerebral, cynical casino dealer in a lean piece of Brit noir called Croupier. Since then, he has given variations on the same character, in Gosford Park as a laconic servant and in The Bourne Identity as a creepy hit man. This movie casts him as the opposite kind of guy, a fire-breathing idealist who’s willing to scream and shout and step on toes to feed the hungry. Passionate outrage looks just as good on this actor as cool reserve does. You should hate Nick for shamelessly exploiting the boy he brings to the party, but Owen wins you over by bringing out the character’s conviction and quick wits. (Some members of the party crowd laugh at him, and he turns their mockery to his advantage.) Rumors have Owen next in line to take over the role of James Bond. I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen. He’d probably be a good fit for the role and would make a craggier and more macho Bond than any of his predecessors, but the relentless conventionality and sameness of those movies would sand off all his rough edges.

Jolie plays Sarah, the dissatisfied American wife of an uptight English businessman (Linus Roache). Witnessing Nick’s stunt inspires her to donate both her money and her hard work to his cause. The movie scores some points for its willingness to portray Sarah as naïve and in over her head and Nick as a man whose humanitarian work does not make him a nice guy — he first sees Sarah as she’s bringing a skeletal child into his clinic and says, “Oh, I get it. Rich white woman saves starving black boy. Do you want me to take your picture? If you do your hair right, you’ll look great.” His dark side goes beyond sarcasm, as he turns to running guns in order to fund his relief work.

From this promising beginning, the movie unfortunately becomes less about the pitfalls of working in the field of international aid and more about a tacked-on romance between Nick and Sarah, as she follows him to Cambodia five years later and then Chechnya five years after that. Director Martin Campbell has had more success doing enjoyably dumb action movies like The Mask of Zorro and Vertical Limit; he’s sorely out of place essaying a picture that attempts to be socially conscious. The movie’s shift in direction is overly abrupt, and there’s little chemistry between the two leads, but that’s not what’s so aggravating about the subplot. What’s annoying is how it takes the movie in such a blinkered direction. Beyond Borders is supposed to espouse the value of relief work as a way of moving beyond one’s own selfish concerns, yet Sarah loses sight of the Third World suffering around her because she wants to get her boyfriend out of trouble above all else. The movie never calls her on it and thus reveals its good intentions as just so much Hollywood posturing.

Email this Article...

Back to Top

Copyright 2002 to 2018 FW Weekly.
3311 Hamilton Ave. Fort Worth, TX 76107
Phone: (817) 321-9700 - Fax: (817) 335-9575 - Email Contact
Archive System by PrimeSite Web Solutions