Beyond Borders

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            As a self-proclaimed Angelina Jolie fan, it really didnít come as much of a surprise to me when I received a Beyond Borders DVD as a birthday gift.  I was actually excited to check out this film as I virtually knew nothing about it - this was one AJ film I hadnít had the opportunity to see in the theaters.

            Beyond Borders stars Angelina Jolie as Sarah Jordan, an American socialite married to a wealthy Brit and living in England, who is awakened to the plight of relief efforts all over the world after an incident at a fundraising gala.  It is during this gala that Sarah meets Dr. Nick Callahan (Clive Owen), a relief worker who crashes the gala affair to plead with them for the money they no longer donate to his efforts to aid impoverished children in Ethiopia.  His passionate plea inspires Sarah to take part in this relief effort.

            While in Ethiopia, Sarah learns the harsh reality of relief work, the horrors of the camps, the threats to both workers and those receiving aide in the camps and more.  At first seen as a rich socialite out to soothe her conscious by bringing aide to the impoverished, Sarah soon earns respect from Nick as he realizes that she is genuine in her endeavor to aide these people.  That respect grows to something more as the years pass and their paths cross numerous times in vastly different locations.

            Beyond Borders is essentially a love story that spans a great many years and a number of continents.  The story spans over a decade and covers such devastated regions as Ethiopia, Cambodia and Chechnya.  But this film is more than just a love story - itís a wake up call for all movie goers as to the conditions of refugee camps all over the world.

            Jolie and Owen are completely believable in their roles and their chemistry is perfect.  One canít help but root for the happiness of Sarah and Nick, despite the fact that Nickís personality often puts him at odds with those around him.  Even though Nick makes us angry, we canít help but hope all goes well for him and the people he is trying to help. 

            Of course Jolie and Owen are not the only actors who performed their roles perfectly.  Kudos must go to Noah Emmerich as the hardworking, well-meaning Elliott Hauser whose diplomacy helps to get the refugee camps much needed supplies and whose dedication to the cause, along with Nickís inspire Sarah to join the relief effort. 

            The sets are amazing with a tremendous amount of detail.  The creators of this film went out of their way to create a realistic impression of the locales and the hardships endured by those in refugee camps - the difficulty in getting supplies to the camps, the nearly impossible task of getting enough money together to get those supplies, the dangers of becoming caught between two fighting factions while trying to offer aide.  Never once did I consider that the locations I was watching Sarah and Nick visit were actually huge sets created by the filmmakers.  They all seemed so incredibly real.

            After watching this film, I realized that Beyond Borders must have been the inspiration for Angelina Jolieís venture into humanitarian aide.  She was eventually chosen as an ambassador for humanitarian aide and wrote a book about her travels.  This is touched upon in the special features section in a short featurette entitled Angelina: Goodwill Ambassador.  After watching this film, one could completely understand how it would inspire her to this cause.

            The extras found on the Beyond Borders DVD are not only entertaining, they are rather educational as well.  I donít know about you, but I love learning about the different things that went in to making a movie, from how the concept for the movie came to be to the reasons for different filming styles to how the sets were created.  In addition to the featurette on Angelina Jolieís humanitarian effort, the DVD contains a two-part documentary called Behind the Lines: The Making of Beyond Borders and a short featurette entitled The Writing of Beyond Borders.

            Behind the Lines is filled with juicy details about the making of the film.  I learned quite a bit from this documentary.  For one thing, I had noticed a difference in filming in the various locations, but couldnít quite put my finger on it until watching this documentary.  Different color filters were used in the various locations to signify a variety of things such as the heat in Africa and the bleakness of war-torn in Chechnya.  The documentary also explained the issues with all of the extras on set in the various locations.  In Africa, the hundreds of extras spoke in a variety of dialects, a highly challenging issue when trying to direct a scene. 

            Thanks to Behind the Lines, I learned how much detail went into creating the realistic sets for each refugee location.  So much detail, in fact, that some of the  refugees of Chechnya had a hard time working on the Chechnya set, so reminiscent it was of the area they escaped from.  I also learned the hardships of filming outdoors and how weather conditions severely lengthened the production time.  But what I thought most interesting is the way the makers of this film decided to give back to the refugees.  The Cambodian set in Thailand took place in an actual refugee village.  The village had no modern plumbing and was very small.  Thanks to the makers of Beyond Borders, they have a much larger camp with electricity and running water.

            In The Writing of Beyond Borders, Caspian Tredwell-Owen explains his inspiration for writing the script and the amount of research that went into this film.  The experiences taking place in the film actually mirror those of real life relief workers that Tredwell-Owen had spoken to while creating this script.

            Thus, Beyond Borders is a movie that achieves two major goals.  It is a entertaining and captivating love story that accurately portrays the hardship found in most refugee camps around the world.  I very thankful to finally have seen this movie and would recommend it to just about anyone with a passion for romance and a yearning to know more about the relief work taking place in refugee camps.


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