Paramount Home Entertainment / 2003 / 126 Minutes / Rated R
Street Date: March 23, 2004
Warning, spoiler ahead: Angelina Jolie explodes at the end of Beyond Borders. Yeah, yeah, yeah, send all the hate mail you want, but I only ruin the ending of this movie to address a greater good: this is the most embarrassing, ridiculously inane movie to come around in years. And is the one film from 2003 that will reign supreme as a camp classic for the ages.
I know I must sound like a heartless bastard, but Beyond Borders proves that there is a vast abyss between what filmmakers set out to make and the final product they end up with. In theory, Beyond Borders was probably a worthy and earnest project: A society matron abandons her metropolitan lifestyle in order to give back to the world around her, only to realize the difficulties and dangers that come with refugee work. Call it a modern-day Out of Africa with a social conscience, and you have yourself a greenlit picture.
Yet even though the film has its heart in the right place, so much goes wrong with the movie's execution that it makes it all but completely impossible to take it seriously on any front. Angelina's performance is fine - she's quite good all the time, I must say - but you can tell she's frustrated with the dramatic material every once in a while. She has admitted on many occasions that she decided to make the film simply because of her passion for its subject matter - and that shines through, of course - but her character is a weak shell of a debutante, a lady who never comes across as anything but whiny and annoying. Bo-ring.
First of all, let us start with the CGI baby. Beyond Borders exploits this technology in a uber-creepy and awful way. I suppose the makers of the film couldn't find an Ethiopian baby frail and emaciated enough to play the part of the infant at the side of the road who Jolie nurses back to health, so they switch off using what looks sometimes to be a rubber baby doll and a Jar Jar Binks-worthy creation that honestly looks so alien and inhuman that it could very well be the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It very well might give you nightmares - I earnestly let out some gasps and screams when that poor little guy showed up on screen. Unbelievable.
But Jolie's explosion at film's end is what really makes Beyond Borders such a masterful piece of camp majesty. Picture it: Clive Owen and Angelina - two star-crossed lovers who think the world of each other but can't be together in a world like theirs blah blah blah - run from the fuzz in the middle of an ice field, trying to make it to the Red Cross camp across the canyon before the bad guys gun them down. POW! Clive gets shot in the leg! Oh no! Angelina is then, of course, forced to decide whether to stand by her man in his hour of need or run for help, running the risk of leaving Clive for dead in the ice field. She decides to run for it, but after fifteen or twenty steps, she steps on a land mine and explodes.
If you're looking for an involving, thought-provoking adult drama about the perils of refugee work, Beyond Borders might not be that great of an idea. But if you're looking for one of the most raucously silly camp classics the last few years have offered, it's just right. And hey - you get to watch Angelina explode at the end.
Video: How Does The Disc Look?
Presented in super-wide 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Beyond Borders looks fairly good here. The more monochromatic desert scenes - with a glorious golden hue to them - benefit most from this transfer, while more saturated colors (in the film's London and metropolitan sequences) end up a little muddy and indiscreet. Black levels are also fairly strong, as is overall detail, though there's little consistency to it (again, desert scenes look great - everything else looks a bit fuzzy). Edginess is kept at a minimum and artifacts are not a problem. Not the best transfer in the world, but not too bad.
Audio: How Does The Disc Sound?
The 5.1 Dolby surround track here is a notch above the video transfer but nowhere near a slam-dunk. Dialogue and atmospherics have been recorded nicely and are presented with impressive exploitation of fidelity and spatialization, but the film's more robust sound effects are a bit clipped (the bassier tones on the .1 LFE channel here are especially compromised). The musical score is also overmixed, and surround channels aren't given the greatest workout they could. Again, it doesn't detract from the film (although one wishes it would, ha ha), but it doesn't enhance it, either.
Also included are English and French Dolby 2.0 surround dubs plus English subtitles and Closed Captions.
Supplements: What Goodies Are There?
Director Martin Campbell's and producer Lloyd Phillips' screen-specific audio commentary is one of those uncomfortable yet unavoidably intriguing tracks where the filmmakers speaking admit to some of the film's shortcomings yet seem bound by loyalty to protect the studio and say a few kind words. The first thing these guys talk about is how goofy the full-blast Mandalay logo sequence at the beginning of the film makes the subtle, twinkling piano music that begins the actual film seem like a prelude to action and adventure rather than a contemplative elegy for displaced persons. It is all but completely obvious that Beyond Borders is a studio hack-job: it is still up in the air whether Campbell could have made an excellent film from the material here if he were given carte blanche, but this commentary is nevertheless an unusually fascinating fly-on-the-wall look at a troubled film.
The two-part making-of featurette included here, Behind the Lines is fairly thorough (both parts run about 19 minutes each), but only somewhat involving. We get in-depth looks at the construction of the film's Ethiopian Relief Camp as well as candid interviews with filmmakers and cast members, but it's not quite enough to legitimize a documentary this long on a film this bad. Again, the fact that a film like this - with morals and themes like these - got made in the first place is a coup, but this making-of doc doesn't shed too much light on it.
More interesting is the eight-minute featurette The Writing of Beyond Borders: A Conversation with Screenwriter Caspian Tredwell-Owen. This short extra with the long title offers a peek into the inspiration and execution of this unique screenplay, and Tredwell-Owen is quite well-spoken and informative about his writing. Too bad we can't say the same for his film. Angelina: Goodwill Ambassador is the kind of extra feature that makes a writer like me feel like an asshole. Even if our favorite big-lipped celebrity is doing only half of what she speaks about, she's accomplishing a lot more with her celebrity than most others. In four minutes, Angelina talks about her particular charitable organizations that aim to help refugees and we look at part of what is involved in doing what a Goodwill Ambassador like Ms. Jolie does. For people who can take Beyond Borders seriously, this is a must-watch.
Also included are theatrical trailers for Tupac: Resurrection, Timeline, Paycheck, and The Perfect Score (all in 1.85:1 anamorphic and 2.0 stereo).
DVD-ROM Exclusives: What do you get when you pop the disc in your PC?
There are no ROM extras on the disc.
Only diehard Angelina lovers will be happy with Beyond Borders. Not only is the movie itself suspect, but the transfer and extras are just pretty good, not great. The DVD runs a relatively steep $29.95 so it is a difficult one to recommend. But if you need a goofy, campy laugh, this one's definitely worth a rental. BOOM!