Copyright 1999-2003 3BlackChicks Enterprises™. All Rights Reserved.

Bams' review of
Beyond Borders


Beyond Borders (2003)
Rated R; running time 128 minutes
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre: Romantic Drama
Seen at: Eastwood Neighborhood Cinema Group (Lansing, Michigan)
Official site:
IMDB site:
Written by: Caspian Tredwell-Owen
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen, Noah Emmerich, Teri Polo, Linus Roache, Yorick van Wageningen

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2003

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)

For reasons I'll get into in my personal observations later in this very long review, it's hard for me write objectively about my reaction to Beyond Borders, even a full day after having watched it. Suffice it to say, I would've done myself a favor if I had planned on having dinner before this particular movie.

THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
Sarah Jordan (Angelina Jolie) starts out in 1984 as a socialite in London, engaged to Henry Bauford (Linus Roache) and his family's Olde Money. But when Dr. Nick Callahan (Clive Owen), an embattled international relief worker, storms into her life, Sarah is Changed Forever. Callahan wants high society patrons to stop paying mere lip service to aiding the poor, and parades one of the starving children he rescued, at a "black and white" party Sarah attended - only to be met with ridicule by those same so-called philanthropists.

But Sarah has seen the light: with Henry's reluctant approval, she sells much of her earthly belongings to finance food and supplies for one of Callahan's rescue missions. And thus begins Sarah's on-again/off-again foray into becoming a dedicated rescue worker - though Callahan is far from convinced. As Callahan's friend and co-worker Elliot (Noah Emmerich) reminds him, though, Nick has his own Issues to worry about. If chronic starvation, rampant disease, and non-existent supplies weren't enough, Nick and his crew also have to contend with corrupt government officials, and shady ops folks like Steiger (Yorick van Wageningen).

THE UPSHOT (WARNING: **additional spoilers contained below**)
Beyond Borders angered me on a level that is hard for me to convey in writing. It is quite unlike the anger I've felt for merely stupid fare like Supernova or Monkeybone. Those movies only insulted my intelligence; Beyond Borders hurt my soul, both for what it was, and for what it was not.

After watching the first few heart-wrenching scenes of the ghastly effects of chronic drought, mass starvation, and rampant governmental corruption in 1985 Ethiopia, I honestly found myself racked with tears. I knew as I sat there, that those images of severely malnourished children, emaciated adults looking like walking skeletons, and a landscape raped by decades of colonial greed, would haunt me in my sleep. For awhile there, I was fully prepared to defend star Angelina Jolie against the criticisms I'd been hearing about her performance in this movie. Surely, I thought, those critics were simply Wrong. Sure, her Sarah looked like she had just stepped out of a salon and onto the desert sands; and sure, she came off as yet another Clueless White Savior at first. "But what do chronically suffering people care about who Delivers them, as long they're Delivered?", I started to defend. "And if nothing else, look at Jolie's real-life transformation from Hollywood Wild Child, to committed mother and humanitarian, and all because of her experiences in making this movie!", I was preparing to exclaim.

Of course, this was all before the movie got weird, not only by introducing the strangest excuse for Sarah to become a Warm Place that I've ever seen, but by jumping from one era and area of suffering to another (Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Chechnya), using the ill-advised romance as the puzzling glue to hold the pieces together. The disjointed feeling one gets from watching Sarah leap from being Concerned Humanitarian to Flighty Housewife - and back again - can easily give one a headache. But the real shame of Beyond Borders is that it at best, glossed over and at worst, grossly exploited that which it should have been fighting for: namely, the fact that there are people out there much worse off than anything most of us could possibly imagine. And that there are also good people out there, struggling against all hope, to help save those people from horrors most of us choose to pass off as Somebody Else's Problem.

I still remain amazed that this movie was conceived as a "romantic drama". But to be fair, let's be honest here for a minute: if that bizarre romance hadn't been a factor in Borders, just who would've watched this movie? Come on now, honest; would you have knowingly gone to see a dramatized look at the poorest of the poor oppressed people of this world, sans the Obligatory Love Story? No, I didn't think so. And I'll be honest too: I didn't expect the romance (I hadn't read up on this movie closely before seeing it), but I don't know if I could've sat all the way to the end, without a break from that dramatized despair. Not without coming out a completely soggy, guilt-ridden mess, anyway.

I just hope that Jolie's admirable humanitarian efforts wind up being more sincere than much of what's offered in this movie. Even as cynical as I am, I would hate to think that Sarah's real-life counterpart, is scratching a patronizing itch she has for a quick minute. The optimist in me, though, has a newfound appreciation for Ms. Jolie's having heeded a call that goes beyond simply singing "We Are The World" and tossing some coins in a collection plate. Good for her, I say.

THE "BLACK FACTOR"    [ObDisclaimer: We Are Not A Monolith]
If you'll indulge me for a few paragraphs more, I need to take a moment to observe my own personal Black Factor (to keep a long review from becoming longer, I've linked it separately, here, for your perusal).

I left the theater feeling completely manipulated by what I'd just seen - and completely wracked with guilt, for being fortunate enough to be where I am. Hmm...maybe Beyond Borders hit its mark after all.


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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2003
EMAIL:    ICQ: 7760005

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More 3BlackChicks™ review(s) for this week:
(movies reviewed through 10/24/03):

Bams' reviews:
Beyond Borders

The Diva's reviews:
Radio | Scary Movie 3

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