'Beyond Borders' beyond dull

    hile it is probably unpopular to slam a film about humanitarian relief efforts, the sub-par quality of “”Beyond Borders”” makes it easier on the conscience to just that.

    Touted as an epic love story set in sweeping landscapes and harsh realities, the film is truly visually stunning. The political message is glaringly obvious: There is and has been a dire need for relief efforts in the world. The political platform “”Beyond Borders”” has to grapple with, however, is its ultimate demise.

    The issue of aid to war-torn countries is like a baseball bat to the legs of this film, and the result is a wholly underdeveloped script, incomplete characters and a general feeling of emptiness.

    Sarah Jordan, played by Angelina Jolie, is a transplanted American living in London with her British white-collar husband, and together they form the perfect philanthropic socialite couple. In fact, Jordan is in attendance at a hoity-toity benefit ball to raise money for the starving in Africa when she learns that charity is not all glitz, glam and $2,000-per-plate dinners.

    Her eyes are opened about the same time she is knocked to the floor by the chaotic, unplanned arrival of Dr. Nick Callahan (Clive Owen), who bursts into the event with a starving child and hordes of press in tow. He wastes no time in metaphorically spitting in the diners’ high-end plates. The funding for his relief camp in Ethiopia has been axed, and this renegade doctor wants it back.

    By the next morning, Jordan cashes in her savings for thousands of dollars worth of beans, packs up for a trip to Ethiopia, and leaves the hubby in their posh London apartment.

    And that’s just the first 10 minutes.

    “”Beyond Borders”” is essentially divided into three locations across nearly 15 years and has three tiers of character and story development. The characters fail to expand, however, because in each location, the script is bogged down in explanation of what happened in the previous five years, why the heck Jordan is in Cambodia, and who is having romantic relations with whom.

    The strongest element of the film is the scenery and cinematography. “”Beyond Borders”” filmed as closely as it could get to the script and the crew globe-trotted to northern Africa and Thailand. The dust is real, the flies are real, and it works for the film.

    There are some things, however, that seem so very unreal.

    Symbolism is a fine tool when done right. White is a symbolic color, signaling innocence and niaveté. It is unreal, however, to dress Jolie head-to-toe in white in the deserts of Africa. White espadrilles and a designer fedora could be symbolic ‹ yes ‹ but are downright cheesy.

    Later in the movie, Jordan is clad in black. Ironically, she’s in black while running through the snowy mountains of Chechnya, where the white could have served her well as camouflage. Furthermore, while she’s there, Jordan spends a stack of five-dollar bills and 45 seconds to find a person who has been captured and hidden somewhere in the frozen war zone. Believable? Hardly.

    Jolie does, however, manage to play the part with a sense of urgency, which undoubtedly comes from her true-life experiences with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as Goodwill Ambassador. The abbreviated script choked her of any true character development: she did what she could, but ultimately, Jordan was too empty to identify with.

    Owen, as Callahan, is overly passionate and a mystery beyond his ardent efforts. Cursing and sweating, he is an unreachable, impenetrable humanitarian who has put his own life on hold to focus on the needs of others. Although at times his cursing was laughable, he was gritty enough for the part. Like Jolie, Owen did what he could. But not even these two talented actors could save this travesty of a film.

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