Review by Paul Stathakis | 2003

Done with “Train­ing” and ready for com­bat, direc­tor Antoine Fuqua presents view­ers with a fic­ti­tious war in his lat­est dra­ma “Tears of the Sun”. With lit­tle action and sim­ple dia­logue, the film address­es free­dom and wrong­do­ings in Africa while reveal­ing anoth­er side of Amer­i­can patri­o­tism. Bruce Willis plays navy SEAL Lieu­tenant A.K. Waters, who hard­ly speaks dur­ing the first hour of the movie. Waters and his unit are quick­ly sent to war-strick­en cen­tral Africa with a spe­cif­ic mis­sion: to res­cue four U.S. nationals.

Once Waters (and his men) enter Nige­ria and find the four nation­als work­ing at a clin­ic, he orders them to leave back with him imme­di­ate­ly. The priest and two nuns refuse to leave, but Dr. Lena Hen­dricks (Mon­i­ca Bel­luc­ci) accepts to be res­cued only if refugees under her care can be brought along. So, Waters makes up a lie and tells Hen­dricks that she’s per­mit­ted to bring her peo­ple along.

How­ev­er, when they reach the heli­copter, Waters toss­es Hen­dricks aboard. She asks, “What about my peo­ple?” and Waters direct­ly answers, “We’re not here for them.” An angry Hen­dricks begins weep­ing and shout­ing curs­es at Waters, claim­ing he lied to her. The heli­copter lifts off the ground and flies away. The refugees stand and watch in despair.

But “Tears of the Sun” does­n’t end there. Behind his tough com­mand­ing atti­tude, Waters is as human as any­one else. He knows what his orders are and always sticks to his mis­sions. But this time, he has a change of heart. Waters dis­cov­ers that rebel troops are wan­der­ing Nige­ria, exe­cut­ing inno­cent civil­ians, and even set­ting parts of the town on fire. He decides to trust his own judg­ment and go against the operation.

Waters orders the heli­copter back to the refugees, telling Hen­dricks that she can only pick 12 refugees due to the small size of the chop­per. He sug­gests that she choose the health­i­est ones, main­ly those who can walk.

But then, there’s anoth­er prob­lem. As the rebels near Waters’ loca­tion, his chief com­man­der (Tom Sker­rit) informs him through radio com­mu­ni­ca­tion that U.S. forces will no longer be enter­ing Nige­ria. That means the chop­pers won’t be return­ing and that Willis must safe­ly bring the pack to a near­by bor­der in Cameroon. “As of now, you are on your own,” says the commander.

That’s right, Bruce Willis is in charge of sav­ing inno­cent lives — again. In the fash­ion of a clas­sic “Ram­bo” sce­nario, Willis and his team decide to face the entire rebel army. And, it’s one big army. At one point, Willis brave­ly tells his com­man­der, “My men will com­plete this mission.”

”Tears of the Sun” bor­rows action from “Black Hawk Down” and dra­ma from “Proof of Life”. At least, that’s what it ulti­mate­ly feels like. The movie is very straight-for­ward. The mis­sion isn’t com­pli­cat­ed. But the sim­ple res­cue mis­sion even­tu­al­ly calls for action — only towards the last 25 min­utes of the film.

”Tears of the Sun” isn’t that explo­sive and it cer­tain­ly isn’t “Die-Hard” in dis­guise, nor does it try to be. Fuqua’s adven­ture flick is some­what dif­fer­ent. It reminds us of the cur­rent war in Iraq and com­ments on vicious slaugh­ter­ing in Africa, which is some­thing that may be hap­pen­ing today. The sto­ry is sol­id, but its unfold­ing isn’t — which is prob­a­bly why the script does­n’t feel authentic.

Many scenes in “Tears of the Sun” are hard to watch. Be warned: there’s a cer­tain amount of vio­lence in this movie. The killings are bru­tal and sub­tle. Some Africans are raped, oth­ers muti­lat­ed, and many of them shot.

The movie is orga­nized and enter­tain­ing, but it’s noth­ing new. Willis gives a decent per­for­mance and the rest of the sup­port­ing cast fol­lows. The film is, at times, over-dra­mat­ic. For the most part, it’s made for the strong-heart­ed main­stream movie­go­ers. “Tears” may be well direct­ed, but it’s an exam­ple of clas­sic Hol­ly­wood. Yes, that means the movie ends on a soft and joy­ful note. And who does­n’t love hap­py end­ings? But, maybe that’s where the movie suf­fers. It makes com­bat look easy and that’s not being total­ly honest.


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