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Paramount Studios presents
"I'm no warrior. I'm in the relief business."
DVD ReviewBeyond Borders is one of those sly message films disguised as an epic adventure-romance, in which lovely American socialite Sarah Bauford (Angelina Jolie) immerses herself up to her gloriously full lips in the deadly and dangerous world of global refugees. Her rude awakening (in both philosophical and libidinous terms) comes at the hands of rebellious, hunky humanitarian Nick Callahan (Clive Owens), a brash British doctor who crashes a posh AIDS relief fund-raiser in London to plead his dire case for more funding. The introduction of the character of Callahan is a great sequence, with his brutally frank bitch-slapping of a room full of wealthy glad-handing fat cats, which is the first of many such message moments in this film that at the very least heightens attention to the fate of the world's refugees.
The romance angle of the story is convoluted slightly, and predictably, by the fact that Sarah is already married and has a young son by whiny Brit Henry Bauford (Linus Roache), who just happens to be the son of one of those wealthy fat cats that Callahan despises. Considering the fact that we know based on the cover art that Sarah and Callahan will become entwined at one point, and considering that this is a Hollywood romance-adventure, their path to gooey-eyed mooning is made all the more conveniently morally tolerable when Henry's extracurricular sexual activities are introduced in a scene that serves no other purpose than to justify Sarah's smoldering passions to the audience.
Jolie is put in the odd spot of playing a pampered but remarkably determined woman repeatedly thrust into the harshest, most dangerous corners of the globe, and despite her different film roles and even an Oscar win, she will always be gun-toting action icon Lara Croft to me. I kept expecting her to pick up a submachine gun or rappel down a wall to kick some bad guy ass, though during the Chechnya sequences she comes closest to that. Her performance, as with Owens, is less about overall emoting than it is about blurting out refugee facts and looking sternly compassionate at their surroundings, something Jolie can do admirably. The most believable character is the supporting role of an immediately likeable chap named Elliot (Noah Emmerich) who is one of Callahan's partners. Emmerich does nice guy extremely well here, and at one point I was secretly hoping Jolie's Sarah would run off with him instead, rather than Owens' I-have-to-save-the-world-myself Callahan.
Director Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Vertical Limit) divides his film into three distinct chapters based on setting (Ethiopia, Cambodia, Chechnya), with each serving to provide its own set of diverse difficulties and challenges for the main characters. The scope and depth of each of these locales could easily have been the lone backdrop for a single film, but Campbell manages to connect all three together adequately with the theme of human suffering, interspersed with the blossoming romance between Sarah and Callahan.
It is the slow love-hate relationship that is the most trite element here (yes, we know they despise each other initially; yes, we know they'll fall in the sack at some point), and thankfully Campbell has the chops to deliver some terrific action set pieces, including a nerve-rattling scene involving a baby and a grenade, and an explosive attack sequence in Chechnya, that almost elevate Beyond Borders above being just a simple Hollywood romance.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Coming from Paramount in a strong 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Beyond Borders doesn't just look good, but actually pretty darn great. Overall image detail and sharpness are well done, and the colors on this globe-hopping saga are appropriately lush and green (Cambodia) or cold and blue (Chechnya), and all accurately rendered. Fleshtones retain natural hues and are reproduced cleanly.
Some extremely minor instances of edge enhancement are hardly a distraction on this otherwise solid transfer.
A fine, fine job from Paramount.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Here's a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio transfer that comes alive enough during a few big climactic sequences during the last twenty minutes or so that might make you forget that the preceding 110 minutes have been relatively staid. The aggressive mix, loudly incorporating the rears as well as the sub, during a Chechnyan shootout, and the subsequent explosions, are handled exceptionally well, really creating a full-bodied surround effect that is genuinely powerful.
Not that the rest of the audio transfer is a complete washout, because though surround cues are largely resigned to sporadic and simple background cues, the soundstage across the front speakers is very fluid, with plenty of spatial panning. Dialogue is cleanly mixed, and comes across just as well on the 2.0 English surround track.
A French 2.0 surround track is also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Tupac: Resurrection, Timeline, Paycheck, The Perfect Score
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Martin Campbell, Lloyd Price
Extras Review: Director Martin Campbell and producer Lloyd Phillips provide a full-length, scene-specific commentary, and aside from Campbell occasionally referring to Jolie as "Angie", the track is centered largely around some of the varied technical elements of this multi-continent production, with countries like Thailand doubling for Cambodia or Canada taking the place of Chechnya. The good news is that both speakers have gentle, easy-to-listen speaking voices, and the content covers possibly overlooked things like how a three-year-old Namibian boy was digitally altered to look more skeletal, or more large-scale issues such as how specific shots were assembled to create certain effects. Campbell has a knack for offering up salient content that is neither too ridiculously schmaltzy or overtly technical, and his input here, whether it be about chocolate bananas, digital blood, or the hassles of filming on a boat were welcome.
For some odd reason, the EPK Behind The Lines: The Making of Beyond Borders, is split into two separate parts. The first part (18m:40s) covers the impressive work involved turning an old Canadian sugar mill into Chechnya, as well shooting in Africa, where Namibia doubled as Ethiopia. The second half (18m:40s) concludes with more Namibia footage, and then moves into the production's time in Thailand.
Two lesser segments include Writing Beyond Borders: A Conversation with Screenwriter Caspian Tredwell-Owen (07m:32s), in which he provides a brief, though comparatively dull background on the origins of the screenplay, and Angelina: Goodwill Ambassador (03m:40s), which is essentially a promo piece touting Jolie's involvement with the UNHCR.
In addition to four trailers (Tupac: Resurrection, Timeline, Paycheck, The Perfect Score), the disc is cut into 18 chapters, and features optional English subtitles.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsHere's a film that I had an entirely different impression of based on the trailer from its theatrical run. It looked like a simple soapy star-crossed lovers romance, when in fact it plays more like a fairly taut adventure, with moments of tense, viable action that draws attention to the global plight of refugees.
While some of the sub-plot points are slightly exaggerated and played up for cinematic drama, the underlying message of man's unwavering inhumanity towards man remains intact.
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