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Tears Of The Sun|
cast: Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Tom Skerritt, and Fionula Flanagan
director: Antoine Fuqua
116 minutes (15) 2003
widescreen ratio 2.40:1
Columbia Tristar DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Christopher Geary
Just returning to his American base ship after a dangerous mission in Nigeria, US Navy
SEAL team leader Lieutenant A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis) is briskly ordered back into the
jungles of the civil war torn country to rescue a single American citizen, Dr Lena Kendricks
(achingly beautiful Monica Bellucci), who's caring for injured refugees at a small village
hospital. Finding the compassionate doctor is unwilling to abandon her needy patients,
Waters and his squad escort the locals to an airlift rendezvous, only to betray Kendricks'
appeal for help by leaving them behind and taking the struggling doctor aboard a transport
helicopter. However, when Waters sees how the brutal revolutionary stormtroopers have
slaughtered those Nigerians who remained at the Catholic missionary, his conscience urges
him to ignore his protocols not to intervene in this nation's internal conflict, and Waters
directs his men to proceed with a full evacuation, even though it requires a wearying trek
on foot, to safety at the border.
There's an obligatory plot twist, of course, as the reason for the bad guys' pursuit of
Kendricks' group is revealed, but the story offers very few surprises. As is usual with
this kind of macho, sometimes jingoistic, Hollywood movie, the 'heroic' men of Waters'
unit have 'cool' one-syllable nicknames ('Red', 'Zee', 'Slo', 'Silk', 'Flea'; etc) to
give their leader's radio-commands a terse, professional detachment. But the supporting
cast, which includes Cole Hauser, Nick Chinlund, and others that I've not heard of before
simply don't have sufficiently well-defined characters for us to tell them apart, never
mind elicit our sympathy when they are killed off.
For all its apparent modern, humanitarian sentiments expressed by the principal characters,
Antoine Fuqua's war zone drama often seems like an old-fashioned 'western' adventure. It's
a bit like The Dirty Dozen (1967) meets The Magnificent Seven (1960). However,
there's no hint of the moral ambiguities found in Kelly's Heroes (1970), or The
Wild Bunch (1969) and, despite the 'conflict-of-interests' central to the main plot,
Tears Of The Sun hasn't got the fiercely cynical bite of Catch-22 (1970).
Instead, it's stuck in the supposedly realistic mould of such 'war is hell' movies as
Black Hawk Down,
though it fails to match the chaotic intensity of Ridley Scott's battle-horror
opus. That said, the film this most resembles is the British mercenary adventure
The Wild Geese.
Although the film's deployment of military hardware (big helicopters, a warship) is impressive,
and the jungle-fighting tactics of Waters' soldiers presents evidence of the close involvement
of professional 'technical advisors', other scenes in this weakly-gripping drama are puzzling,
and suggest that the filmmakers did not get as much cooperation or assistance from US armed
forces (were Pentagon officials upset by the story's thinly veiled criticism of US foreign
policy?) as they would obviously have preferred. Tom Skerritt's character, Waters' immediate
superior, Captain Bill Rhodes, communicates with his men-in-the-field using a handheld radio,
while standing upon the noisy main deck of an aircraft carrier. Wouldn't an evacuation operation
such as the one depicted here warrant a proper 'control room' securely and comfortably below
Whatever production or scheduling problems Tears Of The Sun might have faced, do not
excuse the general inadequacy of the screenplay by Alex Lasker (co-writer of John Boorman's
Beyond Rangoon, 1995) and Patrick Cirillo (who scripted the lame hospital-horror flick
Willis has been criticised for a 'robotic' performance here but, like the rest of the players,
he's been letdown by a shoddy script, which has little to say yet speaks its rhetoric at full
volume anyway. It's also been noted that Ms Bellucci always looks exquisitely lovely even
after she is supposed to have been dragged through a zillion hedges backwards. Well, that's
Hollywood jungle chic for you. Glamour wins over grunge every time...
Tears Of The Sun is not so bad a film, in all honesty. It's just not quite as good
or entertaining as it various influences. There's a typical batch of disc extras that go
some way towards making up for the main feature's deficiencies. A commentary by the director
and writers covers standard material only, as does the making-of item. You also get relevant
factoids, deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, and text filmographies.