The genocide in Rwanda made a resurgence a few years ago with Hotel Rwanda, and the crisis is back with the similar-themed but ultimately quite different drama, Beyond the Gates (also known as Shooting Dogs). Directed by Michael Caton-Jones (the forgettable Basic Instinct 2 and the rather cool The Jackal), Beyond the Gates is an in-your-face, bloody and saddening film.
Starring Hugh Dancy and John Hurt, the movie follows a young English man who travels to Rwanda for summer vacation only to find himself in the middle of a country on the verge of genocide. After the Rwandan president is assassinated, the country plunges into chaos, and the school and church where he and his colleague, a Catholic priest (Hurt), turns into an escape for thousands of Tutsis on the verge of extermination. Protected by a small group of U.N. soldiers, they struggle to carry on life as normal, but life is anything but. And when the U.N. is forced to leave, the two foreigners must make a choice: do they flee, or do they stay and die with their friends?
In many ways, Beyond the Gates is like a lower-budget, less-fluffy version of Hotel Rwanda (not to say that the Don Cheadle drama was fluffy by any means). The movies share a very similar plot, except for this movie is told from a foreigner's perspective. Ultimately, both are very comparable in quality, although Beyond the Gates tries to punch you in the face a little more by showing people getting hacked to pieces, babies getting murdered and so on and so forth. Beyond the Gates is effective in garnering emotions, though it lacks the character development you'd expect.
Both Dancy and Hurt are good, but neither characters are especially interesting or engaging. I never got a feel for Dancy's character and his purposes and intentions, and thus it is hard to feel strongly about his decisions, one way or another. Hurt gets a couple good scenes, but he seems distant and times and separated from the real story. Only one Rwandan character is given much screen time, but she is used more as a mild romantic interest that never actually pans out. A little more emphasis or character development of the Rwandans in the movie may have given the film a bit more meaning.
Nevertheless, Beyond the Gates is a relatively powerful drama that delivers a clear message about what happened in Rwanda. The film is yet another reminder of how much the international community screwed up once again. Recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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