Beyond Borders (2003)

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Released 10-Jun-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary
Featurette-Making Of-Behind The Lines
Featurette-Writing Beyond Borders
Featurette-Angelina Jolie Goodwill Ambassador
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 121:28
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Martin Campbell
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Angelina Jolie
Clive Owen
Teri Polo
Linus Roache
Noah Emmerich
Yorick van Wageningen
Timothy West
Kate Trotter
Jonathan Higgins
John Gausden
Isabelle Horler
Iain Lee
Keelan Anthony
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music James Horner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Angelina Jolie is Sarah Jordan, a London based American socialite in Beyond Borders, a film from director Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro). She, seemingly touched by feelings of noblesse oblige, devotes her time to benefit dinners, raising money for the impoverished citizens of the Third World. She is well meaning but utterly naive, and her paint-by-the-numbers approach to international aid is disparaged by an angry British doctor, played by Clive Owen when he storms into one of their self congratulatory galas bearing a malnourished child from sub-Saharan Africa. These opening scenes foreshadow the tone of much of the film - a misconceived mess of drum beating that decries the evils of the First World one moment (Owen's overemphatic speech at the beginning of the film), drawing attention to the plight of starving refugees, then conveniently pushes them into the distant background so they and their war torn surroundings can serve as exotic scenery for a globetrotting romance between the two lead actors that is never convincing. Oh yes, and somewhere in there is a strained subplot about Sarah's failed marriage, meant I suppose to draw attention to...well we never really know because this personal crisis is dealt with in such a cursory manner. Superficial, too, are the innumerable social issues the film bandies about in neon sign meretriciousness, then seemingly pleased with the mere fact that they've brought them up the filmmakers forget them.

    Jolie is a stunningly beautiful woman, a proven actress (remember her Oscar winning turn in Girl, Interrupted) and her work for the United Nations is commendable. However, her performance seems forced, the emotional high points marred by affectation, problems brought into sharper relief by a film that does a disservice both to the millions suffering around the world and the aid workers whose tireless efforts try to hold those people's fates back from the brink of abject misery. For all its portentousness the film doesn't seem to take the issue of Third World poverty seriously enough to devote the entirety of the story to it. Instead we get this weird hybrid of three films, none of which is brought off successfully. The film is split into three acts, set in different parts of the world - drought-stricken Ethiopia, Cambodia during the brutality of Pol Pot's regime of genocide (again dealt with in a disconcertingly superficial way) and finally an episode in war torn Chechnya that ignores the politics, the suffering of the refugees, and the interminable length of the conflict to build us to a wayward third act with an awful, melodramatic ending that is as empty as the screenwriter's head must have been when he penned such egregious nonsense. I have read since watching the film that it had a very troubled pre-production, losing both its original male lead (Kevin Costner - arguably not a loss for the film or Costner), female lead (Catherine Zeta-Jones, then Meg Ryan) and director Oliver Stone who, if not avoiding (or trying to avoid) the histrionics of the screenplay would have (hopefully) injected a little more political awareness and piqued the audience's interest with his famously kinetic filmmaking style.

    Beyond Borders tried to do too many things, achieved none of them and what's worse, particularly considering Jolie's social conscience, betrayed the very people I assume the film was trying to honour.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    It seems to follow that substandard films get beautiful video transfers whilst classics are plagued with countless imperfections . In this instance the 2.35:1 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer is of very good, sometimes excellent quality, but is not without some problems.

    Sharpness and shadow detail is of a high standard, although it must be said that the Ethiopian chapter fares best - the dunes of the deserts are rendered with tremendous clarity. The London scenes are unfortunately a little disappointing - there is a hazy indistinctness to much of them. Grain is something of a problem in the final Chechnya chapter. The colour scheme in that final episode does seem to help matters.

    There is some mild edge enhancement but nothing terribly jarring on the eye.

    Campbell and his cinematographer obviously spent significant time planning the look of the film, arguably at the expense of everything else - and it shows. Each of the new exotic vistas is captured in a fascinating and specific light: Ethiopia in crystalline brilliance - ochres and other earthen hues set against the endless blue of the skies, Cambodia in verdant greens and mists, a stark contrast to the bleak metallic greys, blues and the frigid white of Russian winter. London typically is grey and domestic. For the most part it seems the transfer is faithful to these varied palettes. Skin tones are realistic.

    Compression artefacts present themselves only intermittently, mostly in the latter stages of the film, but again they do not interfere greatly with an appreciation of the visuals. Film artefacts are most notable during the opening credits, and some mild aliasing does plague the dunes of Ethiopia but again it will only be intrusive to the most glaring eyes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    We are presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 English track and a far less enticing Dolby Stereo 2.0 English track. I only sampled the latter but was surprised that much of the 5.1 track is similar in scope to its inferior counterpart.

    Audio sync is faultless, whilst dialogue is clear and easy to understand. There were no distortions of any kind to report. This is an excellent presentation in that regard.

    James Horner is a talented film composer, who has given us some brilliant scores in the past (his first collaboration with Martin Campbell, The Mask of Zorro is brilliant, as are Apollo 13 and Willow). However, he, perhaps expectedly, has been guilty of repeating himself and hammering motifs over and over and over (Enemy at the Gates, Troy). Here, the score is not so much repetitious as unmemorable. Like most of the other artistic talent involved it seems Horner didn't know whether to write a soaring romance score, all strings and touches of piano, or a culturally sensitive score, like that he wrote for the (in my opinion) underrated The Four Feathers. There are some intriguing moments, and interesting use of synthesizers mixed with indigenous instruments but ultimately the score is without a memorable theme and uses a pastiche of material that barely coheres, perhaps perfectly suiting the nature of the film and certainly doesn't lend any pathos to a film so desperately striving for and in need of some.  It is, however, well played and recorded and I must confess a kind of gratitude that a great Horner score was not wasted on this pretentious rubbish. For those who might want to know, the piano piece Jolie plays throughout the film is Traumerei by the German Romantic composer, Robert Schumann from his Kinderszenen, 'Scenes from Childhood'.

    I think I've well established the failings of this film but unfortunately you can't even enjoy it as a brainless action epic or 'guilty pleasure', for the surrounds and subwoofer are barely used in the first two thirds of the film. True, once we hit war torn Chechnya the surrounds and subwoofer get some time to contribute sounds of gun fire and distant explosions but for the most part only the front channels get anything to do. The soundtrack is strangely subdued in fact, with only occasional ambience adding depth to a distinctly dialogue heavy, front channel track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio commentary - Martin Campbell (director) and Lloyd Phillips (producer)

    An interesting if a little bland commentary that gives us some insight into the film. Both of them seem entirely unaware of the film's ineptitude and praise the scenes I found utterly unconvincing. They offer some interesting snippets of information about production, much of which took place in Montreal for budgetary reasons, and casting actors. However, it really doesn't amount to much, although I found it more enjoyable to listen to than the film's dialogue.

Writing Beyond Borders: A Conversation with Caspian Tredwell-Owen

    The writer is seemingly well meaning if a little too earnest, and he obviously put a lot of time and effort into the writing of the film, however it seems his admiration for the aid workers has clouded his vision of what film he wanted to write. His analysis of the romance sounds good but it didn't work the way he wished - the reference to Orpheus and Eurydice is strained and unconvincing. I didn't like the way he laid out the selection of the three aid 'hotspots' so mechanically as the artificiality of it is painfully obvious in the film.

Behind the Lines

    This thirty five odd minute documentary is more substantial than most, and provides the best technical insights into the production of this film. A narrator guides us through the production's various locations and looks at setups before a shoot, how authenticity is achieved and some of the pitfalls of location shooting. I would go as far to say that this is far more interesting than the film itself, and more attuned to the realities of its subject matter. It does seem a little overpraising of its major star and too convinced of the film's importance but the interviews with cast and crew are well placed. There are many snippets from the film, presented without 16x9 enhancement.

Angelina Jolie: Goodwill Ambassador

    It is interesting to learn that this film was moving ahead without any thought of casting Jolie, considering her heavy involvement in the programmes of the UNHCR (High Commission for Refugees). This relatively short featurette, which features frank interviews with Jolie amidst footage of her visiting refugee camps, is far more enlightening than the film and I wonder whether a feature length documentary about the work of the UN, with Angelina Jolie featuring prominently, would have been far more beneficial to the cause she spends a great deal of time and effort working for. It is disappointing that the film grossed a meagre four million dollars at the box office considering the importance of much of its subject matter but in the end the creative team only have themselves to blame.

Trailer

    This is relatively standard trailer with the portentous voiceover, presented at an incorrect aspect ratio. It does accurately reflect the tone and content of the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 release misses out on a few trailers of Paramount films - so I would definitely go for the local release, with better picture quality.

Summary

    This is a disappointing film.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio is a little staid for my liking.

    There is an excellent set of extras - quantity and quality here.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Scott Murray (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S100, using Component output
DisplaySony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DVR-S100 (built in)
SpeakersYamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer

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