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‘Beyond Borders’ provides no relief

An action adventure that misrepresents relief workers abroad

The last thing Angelina Jolie needed to revive her fatigued career was another snoozer. Labor of love that it may have been, Jolie’s “Beyond Borders” generally is beyond boredom, intended as a sweeping love affair between humanitarian-aid workers but in reality a preachy melodrama that devolves from monotony to absurdity.

Like Jolie's action hero Lara Croft, her globe-trotting character here tramps through deserts and jungles with nary a mussed hair, maintaining her movie-star luminousness through all hardships.

Co-star Clive Owen is cast as a hard-nosed, anything-for-the-cause crusader, whose merciless cynicism quickly melts to puppy love with a few battings of Jolie’s eyes.

And like Richard Attenborough’s “Cry Freedom,” in which the story of South African activist Steve Biko takes a back seat to the getaway of his white pal, “Beyond Borders” diminishes the plight of refugees in favor of a pair of self-absorbed do-gooders with the hots for each other.

Director Martin Campbell, who took over “Beyond Borders” after Oliver Stone opted out of the movie, aims for a doomed romance of “Dr. Zhivago” scope but delivers little more than a soap opera with exotically bleak locations.

Globe-trotting do-gooders
“Beyond Borders” unfolds in three chapters, beginning in London in 1984 as Nick Callahan (Owen) crashes a world-hunger fund-raising ball that newlywed American Sarah Jordan (Jolie) and her British hubby are attending.

Nick, a doctor at an Ethiopian camp tending 30,000 starving residents, makes a fierce condemnation of charity politics that have cut off his supplies. With implausible schoolgirl pep, Sarah is moved to cash out her bank account, buy truckloads of food and medicine and head off to Nick’s camp.

There, she gets tough lessons in the compromises of altruism, while Nick treats Sarah contemptuously as an interloper playing weekend Mother Teresa. Yet Sarah’s naive bullheadedness softens Nick’s hard heart, and you just know the next time these two meet, they’ll tumble into bed.

Cut to Cambodia, 1989, where Nick and Sarah tumble into bed after a jungle trek leading locals to safety from the Khmer Rouge. Six years later, Nick is taken hostage in Chechnya, and Sarah is off again, on a mission to rescue her man.

The movie deteriorates from tedious but credible glimpses of aid workers in Ethiopia, to a dreary fling in Cambodia, and finally to a grotesquely hollow conclusion amid Sarah and Nick’s outlandish escapades in Chechnya.

Through it all, the victims and aid workers to whom the movie is dedicated gradually become marginalized, until all that’s left on screen is the egocentric romance of two little people whose problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.