If you aren't Jennifer Aniston or Chelsea Handler then you probably don't actively hate Angelina Jolie. And why would you? She's glamorous and spooky, a quality most stars can't pull off. She adopts lots of kids and keeps Brad Pitt in line. And along with the Kardashians and the teen moms, she's solely responsible for the livelihoods of numerous tabloid publication employees. She's got a lot on her plate.
So if, in what little free time she has, she wants to make a really ambitious, really conscientious, really boring movie about the 1990s Bosnian/Serb war and she wants to do it in Croatian with subtitles and she gathers up competent technical help to achieve this goal and she refrains from searing my brain with disgusting imagery like A Serbian Film did earlier this year, then sure, why not?
The backdrop is factual: Bosnians and Serbs, their civil war, the dead-souled brutality of "ethnic cleansing," the lack of efficacy on the part of the of West and the biggest European slaughter since World War II, the stuff of a reasonably well-researched book report.
And stretched out for sexytime on top of this cold, miserable mess is a bizarre love story between a Muslim woman named Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) and her policeman boyfriend Danijel (Goran Kostic), a man who becomes her jailer in a rape-first-ask-questions-later prison camp. He keeps her safe, more or less, occasionally tries to help her escape, but also routinely treats her with abject cruelty. He does this both to show off for the guys and also because he just likes seeing her in pain. Ajla endures all of it, but the movie keeps her true feelings to itself.
Is she so desperate that she'll take the abuse just for survival's sake? Is part of her sort of into it on a masochistic level? Is it meant to be symbolic? What is Jolie trying to tell us besides "war is bad," "people are despicable" and "I, Angelina Jolie, truly care about all the suffering in the world?" If she were a better filmmaker we might find out the answer to those questions. As it is, the film piles tragedy on top of tragedy on top of rape on top of genocide and there seems to be no other point than showing fictionalized versions of those painful realities.
Not that she's a terrible filmmaker. This isn't an exercise in ineptitude. And as a vanity project it's less about Jolie than Madonna's latest, W.E., is about Madonna. But it's also not telling informed filmgoers anything new, nor is it going to find the audience it really wants. There are plenty of moviegoers who're unaware of global atrocities but not so many who also want to sit through a mediocre bummer starring nobody they've ever heard of. With subtitles.
Apparently, Jolie is also hard at work on a movie about Afghanistan. You probably won't want to see that one, either.