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Beyond Borders Reviews

Martin Campbell's misguided tribute to courageous relief workers who routinely risk their lives to help alleviate the suffering of the world's poor, diseased and starving inspired star Angelina Jolie to become Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, but it's still a cheesy romance tricked up in cheap sanctimony. London, 1984: Sarah Jordan (Jolie), sheltered American wife of a well-to-do Englishman (Linus Roache), has her conscience shaken awake when the posh Aid Relief International fund-raiser she's attending is crashed by ruggedly handsome Nick Callahan (Clive Owen), the team leader and full-time physician at an Ethiopian refugee camp that's about to lose its funding. Nick's plight — angrily laid out in a lengthy harangue — and the sight of the underfed young African child he's dragged along to make his point, stir Sarah into action. Sarah scrapes together the 40,000 pounds necessary to fund a convoy of supplies and, fetchingly clad in white linen and espadrilles, personally accompanies the materials to Ethiopia's dusty, drought-plagued plains. There she learns the harsh reality behind the romance of relief work. Unable to "waste" precious food and medicine on the dying, Nick and his woefully understaffed team — including a cuddly American Buddhist (Noah Emmerich) — must make difficult life and death choices while negotiating with ruthless warlords who rule the region and corrupt government officials who've made their personal fortunes by restricting food distribution. Not surprisingly, Sarah also learns to love gruff, no-nonsense Nick, but she must soon return to her cushy London life. Flashforward five years. Sarah, now a mother, has quit her art gallery job and works for the UNHCR. She eagerly agrees to personally courier a shipment to civil war-torn Cambodia when she hears Nick is now vaccinating the countryside against a measles epidemic. Looking sporty in a Lara Croft muscle-T, Sarah catches up with Nick outside Phnom Pen, where they run afoul of both the Communist Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge. Sarah narrowly escapes with her life, but undeterred and tres chic in a black fur-trimmed cap and turtleneck, once again goes in search of Nick when she suspects he's been kidnapped by Chechen rebels. Oy. Don't think for a minute that any of this swanky globetrotting has anything to do real-life humanitarian work, and Campbell's willingness to shunt the missionary work aside once the romance moves front and center is more than a little offensive. The famine, the genocide, the refugees — they soon become so much exotic background to the romantic travails of two attractive lovers.