Angelina Jolie wrote and directed the Bosnian War romance In The Land Of Blood And Honey, but does not appear in it. That is wise. If Jolie were merely to cameo in the film, M. Night Shyamalan-style, her magnetic presence, however fleeting, would forever throw off the film’s balance. Jolie is too innately glamorous to inhabit the film’s cold, grey universe convincingly. It’s a film of shuddering earnestness and fevered good intentions gone awry, a dreary slog of a message movie with little but noble if unfulfilled aspirations to commend it.
Goran Kostic stars as a Bosnian Serb soldier during the beginning of the Bosnian War who falls in love with a Bosniak Muslim woman (Zana Marjanovic) he knew before the war when she turns up as a prisoner in a camp he helps run. As the son of prominent Serbian general Rade Serbedzija, Kostic has been socialized to see Muslim Bosniaks as inferior, if not downright subhuman, but as his relationship with Marjanovic proceeds at great peril to both parties, he finds himself powerfully conflicted.
Serbian groups have justifiably complained about Jolie’s glib stereotyping of Serbs as racist heavies. Kostic, for example, emerges as the film’s hero almost exclusively by virtue of being somewhat less terrible than his contemporaries. Subtlety and understatement become collateral damage as Jolie drives her points home as forcefully as possible and the film devolves into a grubby melodrama that fails to edify or entertain. With her disastrously received 2003 message movie Beyond Borders and now In The Land Of Blood And Honey, Jolie has succeeded in attracting international attention to international atrocities. It’s possible, if not particularly likely, that someday she will get around to dramatizing atrocities compellingly as well, though her colorless work here suggests she’s a lot more likely to do that as an actress than as a filmmaker.