The last time we saw Angelina Jolie was in the "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" sequel, but her latest project is no game. "Beyond Borders" is deeply entrenched in real events and it arrives in theaters this week alongside Cuba Gooding Jr.'s "Radio" and the more escapist fare of "Scary Movie 3."
"Beyond Borders," in which she plays a relief worker who treks around the world behind the doctor who steals her heart, is perhaps the most personal film Jolie has ever made. She recently won an award from the United Nations for her work in exposing the plight of the world's refugees and, as has been widely reported, she adopted a Cambodian child while making the movie.
"The script really inspired me," she said recently during an interview with MTV U.K. "It was five years ago and I hadn't read anything about aid relief or doctors in the field, or really anything about refugees. At that time I was excited to do the film [and] to learn about it. And then the film didn't go — it was postponed.
"I was still really wanting to learn," she continued, "so I started to travel, and then ended up joining the U.N. I never expected the film to come back around, and it did a few years later. It was strange to finally do it. I was more invested in it by the time we did it."
British actor Clive Owen stars opposite Jolie in "Beyond Borders," and for a time, he had trouble leveraging the film's serious subject matter in his mind against the fact that it still was, in fact, a movie.
"You think you are doing this big Hollywood movie about starving people [and] that's a weird contradiction," he confessed. "But ultimately, what's the choice? That you don't do films [like this]? That you just make popcorn movies and don't touch on any serious subject matter? Ultimately, there was a lot of money spent on the film, but a lot of money was spent in the countries that we went to.
"Surely it's better to put a film out there that hopefully will attract a mass audience and open people's eyes to a world they haven't thought about or don't even know about yet," he concluded.
Jolie noted that though most of the film takes place during the 1980s, its themes are just as relevant today. "The famine in Ethiopia is not better today," she pointed out. "Chechnya is still a mess. The Thai/ Cambodian border is still heavily mined. And that's just a few countries. In all different places in the world there are, today, at this moment, thousands of aid workers ... They're people just like us, but they've decided to dedicate their lives to helping other people.
"We should all think about them and be grateful to them," she added. "And I met a lot of refugees and I wanted to make sure in the script that they were not depicted as weak people that couldn't help themselves, but to see them as people."
As a real-life activist herself, Jolie identified a great deal with her character. "I wouldn't say I identify with her completely, she's an amazing person ... but especially the part in the beginning where she makes a lot of mistakes and thinks she can fix the world and goes to Africa with food and realizes it was only gonna last two days. I had those mistakes."
She identified most strongly with the way her character often has to leave her children back home in order to forge ahead with her work. "I've become a parent during [the making of] the film, and I've been questioned for that, whether it's just being a mother and deciding you'd risk your own life for what you think is a better world, or a higher purpose, or something that you think matters. But you have responsibility to the children you've brought into the world."
Like "Beyond Borders," Cuba Gooding Jr.'s latest effort is based on real life — specifically, real events surrounding a mentally challenged young man in a small-town in South Carolina who becomes the mascot for the local football team thanks to a helpful coach, played by Ed Harris ("The Hours").
Both movies arrive as the satirical farce "Scary Movie 3" hits theaters (see " 'Scary Movie 3' Updates The Classic Slapstick Spoof"), while in select cities, a documentary about the 2000 presidential election (featuring everyone from right-leaning Pat Robertson to lefties Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky and featuring performance footage of Rage Against the Machine) driven by actor Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Red Dragon") called "The Party's Over" opens.
Audiences in select cities can also hunt for Disney's "Brother Bear" (featuring the voice talents of Joaquin Phoenix), the Meg Ryan thriller "In the Cut," the Gus Van Sant-directed school violence movie "Elephant" (winner of the Cannes Film Festival's highest prize) and "The Singing Detective," which stars Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson.