Filmed on an epic scale and shadowed with an impossible script, Beyond Borders has a lot of interesting things but fails to sizzle.
In this would-be epic television mini-series, Angelina Jolie stars as Sarah Jordan, a proper American enveloping the British lifestyle in mid ’80s London. Sarah is married to British industrialist Henry Bauford (Linus Roache) who brings her to an upper-class charity event. Sarah loves her life but her soul is challenged when the charity event is interrupted by the plight of radical relief doctor Nick Callahan (Clive Owen).
Callahan tries to shock his audience by bringing a starving boy to the event in hopes of reigniting his canceled funding at his camp in starvation-plagued and war-torn Ethiopia. He fails but his desperate attempt ignites something within Sarah.
The film then follows Sarah as she encounters Callahan three more times in remote corners of the world as she finds love, struggle, hardship and darkest pain.
“Beyond Borders” comes off as more of a shrunken 12-hour mini-series than a statement and praise for relief workers around the world. If this was made during the “golden-era” of the television mini-series which was uncannily when the film takes place then you would have seen the full scope of what this story could have been.
If it was made in the 80s when great mini-series like “Shogun”, “The Thorn Birds” and “North and South” were made then you probably would have seen the leads played by the likes of Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown.
All the great epic romance films of the 80s were mini-series and the scope of this film feels a lot like the way “Thorn Birds” and “North and South” would feel if they were condensed into a punishing 125 minute time frame.
“Borders” felt like it wanted an epic scale, a strong message and an enveloping romance but instead it flounders skimming the surface of the material presented. There are gripping scenes and beautiful locales but they are lost as soon as the film leaves one of those lush scenes.
What could have been a treat was if Jolie spent more time abroad getting to know Callahan and that her life in England was simplified. The contrast between worlds makes Jolie’s character look weak not adventurous or caring.
For the film’s length you would think we would get to know at least one of the characters in-depth but we don’t. We needed more detailed and enthralling characters solidified within the film’s message but instead we get heavy message and 2-dimensional characters.
I liked what “Beyond Borders” tries to be. The epic mini-series of the 80s and early 90s were great favorites of mine in this genre and I see what could have been. It is impossible to tell an epic romance without an audience partially falling in love with the leads.
Trapped within this uneven epic romance is British stalwart Clive Owen who does find a way to rise to the occasion when his fierce determined Callahan is on-screen. Owen is a great leading man but don’t let the film around the man fool you. We will be seeing great things from this actor.
Jolie is strong as Sarah but the script and her character bouncing across continents and shedding a tear here and there makes her character come off as almost a hypocrite. Why does she always have to return to damp, depressing and deathly dull London? It is a shame really. I can imagine what the filmmakers and screenwriters could have done if they had settled on a continent.
The film is directed by Martin Campbell who got noticed with his much underrated film “Criminal Law”, which starred Kevin Bacon and Gary Oldman, in 1988 and another underrated film “No Escape” with Ray Liotta in 1991.
In the 90s, Campbell became a household-name with blockbusters “Goldeneye” and “Mask of Zorro”. But since the failure of 2000’s “Vertical Limit”, Campbell seems to be faltering. “Borders” won’t help this seasoned director regain his niche. Come on, Marty! Pull it together.
It would have been fun to see the “Beyond Borders” that could have been. Instead we are left with a globe-trotting, uneven romance set against the relief aid world. Alas.
(2.5 out of 5)
So Says the Soothsayer.