A fairly inconsequential film about one very serious and attention-worthy subject, John Boorman's In My Country (a.k.a. Country of My Skull) makes the "Beyond Borders blunder" of assuming that forced and fictional romantic entanglements are more important than the true-life tragedies that just got shoved out of the way so that we can watch two movie stars making out.
(*Also known as the "Titanic twist" or the "Pearl Harbor plot.")
Samuel L. Jackson plays the ever-suspicious American journalist called Langston Whitfield, a man sent to report on the South African "Truth and Reconciliation Hearings," which were enacted after apartheid crumbled into the dirt. Juliette Binoche is the idealistic South African reporter who meets up with Langston and becomes his traveling partner, frequent argument buddy, and eventual lover.
Director Boorman, creator of several great movies (Point Blank, Deliverance, Excalibur) and a few terrible ones (Exorcist 2: The Heretic, Where the Heart Is Beyond Rangoon), wants to tell us the story of apartheid's immediate aftermath, but only if it's told through the eyes of two disparate and unlikely lovers -- neither of whom are even remotely as interesting as the actual hearings must have been. Seems a little trivial to focus on these bickering bedmates when the shocking tragedy of South Africa's recent history is left sitting in the background, waiting for its few chances to join the spotlight via overbaked speechifying and hand-wringing good intentions.
Based on the book by Antjie Krog and adapted (rather poorly) by screenwriter Ann Peacock, In My Country would have been a lot more successful had it focused on the real story -- and left the shallow romantic platitudes and ham-fisted subtextual material on the back burner.
Video: The movie is presented in a pretty darn solid widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic format.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.0 (English), with optional English captions and French subtitles.
Extras: There's a dry and earnest audio commentary with director John Boorman, in which the veteran filmmaker sprinkles some historical backstory and production tidbits amidst a few too many rambling deviations. Still, the commentary might just be more insightful than the movie itself! You also get a collection of four deleted scenes with optional Boorman commentary, and a hearty series of interview segments with Boorman, Binoche, Peacock, and producers Mike Medavoy, Robert Chartoff & Lynn Hendee. Trailers for In My Country, Layer Cake, and Kung Fu Hustle round out the supplemental section.
I just can't figure out why semi-fictional romantic ramblings are seen as a lot more interesting than, y'know, the actual history of a story, but In My Country errs on the side of the maudlin, and it does so with an alarming consistency. Points for trying and all, but this particular chapter of South Africa's history deserves a movie a bit more sincere -- and a lot less corny.