Click here to learn more about anamorphic widescreen!
Go to the Home Page
Go to The Rumor Mill
Go to Todd Doogan's weekly column
Go to the Reviews Page
Go to the Trivia Contest Page
Go to the Upcoming DVD Artwork Page
Go to the DVD FAQ & Article Archives
Go to our DVD Links Section
Go to the Home Theater Forum for great DVD discussion
Find out how to advertise on The Digital Bits

Site created 12/15/97.

The Digital Bits logo
page created: 3/11/04

Beyond Borders
2003 (2004) - Paramount

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Beyond Borders Film Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/C+

Specs and Features

126 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), keep case packaging (with locking clips), audio commentary (with director Martin Campbell and producer Lloyd Philips), 3 featurettes (Behind the Lines: The Making of Beyond Borders, Part 1, Behind the Lines: The Making of Beyond Borders, Part 2, The Writing of Beyond Borders: A Conversation with Screenwriter Caspian Tredwell-Owen and Angelina: Goodwill Ambassador), preview trailers, film-themed menus, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0 Surround) and French (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

A sheltered American socialite has only just recently married the son of a British aristocrat, when she has an experience that will to change her life. Sarah (Angelina Jolie) is attending a humanitarian relief benefit in London, when a desperate doctor working in the field suddenly crashes the party. Dr. Nick Callahan (Clive Owen) feels that charitable London society has lost touch with the reality of refugee suffering, so he brings a starving Ethiopian child to the party to make his point. Of course, things goes badly, but at least one person in the crowd has been touched. Sarah decides to liquidate her assets and buy as much food and supplies for Nick's relief camp as possible. She naively delivers the goods herself, and is stunned to see first-hand just how bad the suffering really is. She quickly learns that her four trucks worth of food are just a drop in the bucket - they'll last only a day or two at most - and Nick doesn't seem particularly grateful for it anyway. After spending a few days in the camp, however, she realizes that Nick's abrasiveness is just a defense mechanism - a way to shelter his emotions that allows him to continue his work. They make an emotional connection that changes them both profoundly.

Soon, however, Sarah must return to her husband and her normal life. She has a child and gets involved in humanitarian relief work with the U.N. in London, trying to do her part. But despite the time and distance, she never loses her feelings for Nick. It's not long before her own marriage becomes a sham, maintained solely for the benefit of her young son. Of course, when Nick's best friend shows up in London one day asking for help for their latest relief effort in Cambodia, Sarah finds herself drawn back into Nick's dangerous world once more... for better or worse.

Many critics have called this film crass for depicting a romance against the backdrop of so much suffering. Certainly, that's a valid point. Still, I can't help but think the story could work if done correctly. The reality is that human beings are still human, even in desperate times. In fact, when things get really raw and difficult, they become more human than ever. It's only natural that two people might need... and find... an emotional connection in such circumstances. The problem here is that this film bites off more than it can chew. It tries to be grand and epic in scope, covering decades and at least three continents, all in just over two hours. As a result, the characters get very short shrift. The actors do their best to flesh them out, and both Jolie and Owen do well with what little they have to work with. But Jolie can only convey so much with her liquidly-glittering, soulful eyes. In fact, none of the characters really seem like authentic, real people, including Nick's friend (played by Noah Emmerich), Sarah's husband (Linus Roache) and her sister (Terry Polo). As a result, both the romance and the story fall very flat.

Still, the film looks good on DVD - not great but quite solid in terms of picture and sound. The video is an anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a stylized color palate that is sometimes rich (during relief work scenes), and sometimes muted (almost anything involving Sarah's life in London). There's light grain visible, but little artifacting or edge-enhancement. The film's soundtrack is largely dialogue driven, but you do get occasionally atmospheric surround play in some of the more gritty and dangerous relief work scenes. Both the picture and sound service the film well, but aren't going to win awards.

The extras include a rather boring and stuffy audio commentary with the film's director and producer, a sometimes interesting behind-the-scenes "documentary" in two parts (split only so that it skirts being called a documentary to avoid having to pay the actors), an interview with the screenwriter, a short piece of video showing Jolie in her real life role as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for humanitarian aid, and preview trailers for other Paramount films. It's skim-able once, but there's nothing here that's really compelling enough to give full attention to. You do get the sense, however, that Jolie's experiences with the U.N. have changed her life in a profound way. More power to her.

In the end, if you're a fan of Angelina Jolie, you'll probably want to give Beyond Borders a spin at least once. She does well here with what little she has to work with, and that might be enough reason to watch it right there (it was for me, anyway). But I'd recommend renting it before buying, unless you either just really have to have it, or you get it for a bargain bin price.

Bill Hunt
[email protected]

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!
E-mail the Bits!

Don't #!@$ with the Monkey! Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colors and .gif 89a animation.
© 1997-2015 The Digital Bits, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
[email protected]