1984: The wealthy nations of the world (including the United States) have cut off aid to Ethiopia because of its ties to communism. The population is stricken by a famine that most everyone on the planet ignores. A brash young doctor, Nick Callahan (Clive Owen, "Gosford Park"), crashes a posh banquet, parading an Ethiopian boy (Keelan Anthony) in front of the crowd to shame the well-heeled group into action. He gets arrested, but does inspire one attendee to action: Sarah (Angelina Jolie, "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider"), the lovely wife of a philanderer (Linus Roache, "Hart's War"), drains her bank account and follows Nick to Ethiopia with food and supplies. (It should be noted that she leaves her own child behind to make the trip.) Neither she nor her wares last long amid the internal strife of the country, and the righteous Nick almost gets them both killed. But she feels better about her nice life, and she looks great in white linen holding emaciated African babies against her ample bosom. The entire scene reeks of the sort of self-satisfaction that makes one wonder if there really is such a thing as altruism.
Skip forward five years and Sarah follows Nick to Cambodia where they do it all again, this time with Sarah in a more suitable outfit and Nick dealing weapons to Keep Hope Alive. Sarah has caught her husband cheating so she's morally cleared to get naked with Nick. It's the best moment in the movie, but it belongs in some other movie. As for Nick, he's irritating. He causes many more problems than he ever solves and endangers more lives than he ever saves--yet he seems to be completely unaware of this, as are the filmmakers.
Director Martin Campbell is best known for his work on action films ("GoldenEye," "The Mask of Zorro"), and he handles the war sequences in this romantic melodrama well. The problem is there shouldn't be any Hollywood-style action scenes in this movie. They belittle the moments they try to report, as is usually the case when incongruous genres mix. They are as out of place as the director himself, not to mention his painfully lovely stars. Starring Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen, Linus Roache, Teri Polo and Yorick van Wageningen. Directed by Martin Campbell. Written by Caspian Tredwell-Owen. Produced by Dan Halsted and Lloyd Phillips. A Paramount release. Romance/Drama. Rated R for language and war-related violence. Running time: 127 min