For years, I’ve hoped for Hollywood to make a film about the unsung heroes
of disaster relief and international crisis. An "action" movie that’s more about
preserving human life than destroying it -- one that showcases global issues in a genuine
manner rather than inadvertently trivializing them as setting and subplot, perhaps even
illuminating viewers to subjects that in the American media receive only a shocking 20%
of news coverage.
For a moment, I had thought Beyond Borders might
be that movie -- then the opening credits rolled.
follows the exploits of Sarah Jordan (Angelina Jolie), an American socialite who is
emotionally drafted into a humanitarian adventure
by love interest Nick Callahan
(Clive Owens), an excessively self-righteous renegade doctor. Together this
less-than-dynamic duo goes from one international hot-spot to another: civil war, famine,
and disease in Ethiopia; amputees, refugees, and Apocalypse Now references in
Cambodia; rebels, crime lords, and snow-swept landscapes in Chechnya. At each locale, the
couple falls deeper in love, and the audience cares far less.
It was this
script that supposedly jarred Jolie into becoming a United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees. And after playing globe-hopping, digitally-enhanced hottie Lara Croft in the
series, she viewed this film as her chance to give fans a little substance. She failed.
The romantic relationship is stale, cliché, and devoid of chemistry from its first
on-screen moments. Worse yet are those aspects that should provide substance -- the
disaster relief portions are campy, artificial, and at times outright insulting. Each
hot-spot is a showcase of international crisis with no regard for individual culture or,
for that matter, the individual people featured. When these characters discuss their
tragedies, they sound as though they’re reading PR blurbs from relief agencies -- and
this is what passes as dialogue. Furthermore, Dr. Callahan's brand of relief work
involves gun-running, a complete disregard for the Hippocratic Oath, and a license to
kill when necessary.
Beyond Borders in no way gives a positive or
realistic portrayal of international relief work -- at its best, it is boring,
sanctimonious, sentimental garbage; at its worst, it’s offensively negligent slop.