Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Beyond Belief" (but pretty to look at!)

The latest review from the Netflix queue..."Beyond Borders," the sexy development world drama (a film genre of one) with Clive Owen and Angelina Jolie. (Yes, I'm still catching up from all the movies I missed when out of the country. The first season of "Nip/Tuck" is coming up next...)

o Angelina floats through the Ethiopian refugee camp in gossamer white separates and a Kentucky Derby-worthy hat. These never wrinkle or stain.
o Clive Owen does not laugh once. For 2 hours, he remains brooding, unrelentingly tortured and Very Serious about his work. Because he is a man, his clothing is allowed to wrinkle.
o Clive is kidnapped in Chechnya! Angelina must save him! Miraculously she is outfitted with a Doctor Zhivago fur hat and arrived on the snowy, war-torn steppes within mere days. Doesn't travel to Chechnya require a visa? And wouldn't post-Soviet paperwork take a little longer?
o (Spoiler alert) The genetic union of Angelina and Clive - two of most attractive humans ever spawned - is a normal-looking daughter you'd see at any piano recital in town.
o How did they cast the starving refugees? Particularly in Ethiopia and particularly the children are shockingly near-death thin. That has got to be CGI, or else there'd have to be some serious ethical issues about putting these kids on a movie set rather than a hospital.
o And why are the refugees fleeing? Unlike a more recent documentary, "Darwin's Nightmare" (set in Tanzania), surprisingly little exposition is given to how these tragic situations evolved in the first place.

Otherwise it's a visually striking film about well-meaning, well-groomed characters who grapple with moral dilemmas to help the Poor but Proud peoples of the world (who, with the exception of the female Ethiopian truck driver near the beginning, are portrayed not as actual characters with personalities, but as noble, one-dimensional victims).

As the on-location filming apparently inspired Angelina Jolie's humanitarian work, you wish the end film result more effectively related the complexities and nuances of development work and the situations that necessitate it. (In a few scenes involving supporting characters, these do come through, which adds to the frustration.) Maybe this could have been done through sticking with one country rather than hopping from Africa to Asia to Russia for greater visual variation.

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