Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary; Writer's commentary.
8 deleted scenes; Africa fact track; 2 featurettes; Interactive
map of Africa; Filmographies; Trailers.
Hollywoods decision to tackle sensitive subjects, such
as current world affairs, can frequently feel as heavy-handed
and misguided as Americas foreign policy itself, as the
line between reality and fiction (or spin, for want of a better
word) increasingly becomes blurred.
There is a certain core of film-makers who appear to want to
go to extreme lengths to play up the notion of patriotism and
heroism, particularly post 9/11, that frequently threatens to
undermine the dramatic weight and impact of the situation they
Tears of the Sun is exactly that type of movie; a war film that
consistently booby-traps itself because of its gung-ho, jingoistic
approach to its subject matter.
It concludes with the Edmund Burke quote, the only thing
necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,
by which time the more discerning viewer will more than likely
have had their fill of such over-wrought sentimentality.
Whats worse, is that the film is the latest from Antoine
Fuqua, who so excelled with Training
Day, but who gets lost, here, amid the jungle his heroes find
Bruce Willis stars as Navy SEAL Lieutenant AK Waters, who leads
an elite squad of tactical specialists on a routine mission to
retrieve a Doctors Without Borders physician (Monica Belluccis
Dr Lena Kendricks), from an unstable Catholic mission in the jungles
of war-torn Nigeria, which is currently in a state of collapse
following a coup by a blood-thirsty dictator.
But he is quickly forced to choose between following orders,
by ignoring the conflict surrounding him, or following his conscience
and protecting a group of innocent refugees, by leading them to
political asylum at the nearby border - a choice which becomes
more pronounced when it is revealed that the sole survivor of
the countrys previous ruling family is hiding out among
What begins promisingly, however, quickly degenerates into a
bog-standard race against time scenario, in which the soldiers
nobility is pushed to the limit in the face of the numerous atrocities
that are all too frequently and all too graphically placed before
And while much of the brutality depicted on-screen undoubtedly
goes on in the world, it is the black and white approach of the
film-makers that virtually negates its impact, reducing some scenes
to a laughing stock. Hence, the American soldiers represent all
that is good, and the Nigerian militia represent all that is evil,
and there is no middle ground.
A token recognition of the fact that the Nigerian militia has
probably been armed by the Americans in the first place is begrudgingly
included in the first few minutes, while the soldiers attempt
to atone for their past sins by disobeying orders
and leading their refugees to safety, no matter what the cost
Such moments become lost, however, amid the stifling self-righteousness
of the movie, particularly during its second half, when audiences
arent really allowed to form their own opinion, rather than
have the films message rammed down their throats.
A sequence, midway through, in which Willis leads his men into
a village that is in the midst of being raped and pillaged, is
truly harrowing, yet its impact is softened by what follows, as
the soldiers get to make their do-or-die speeches
before sacrificing themselves gloriously on the battlefield for
God and country.
Hence, Fuqua drifts from the graphic realism of war films such
as Apocalypse Now and
The Thin Red Line, to the nobility of Three Kings final
moments, before crashing into the type of single-handed gung-ho
heroics that Rambo or John Wayne's The Green Berets would have
been proud of.
It is a misguided attempt to offer some escapist hope to a nation
still scarred from the effects of the real-life repercussions
of the past two years; the reality of which there is no escaping
from. Life is not quite as simple as the movies would suggest,
and any attempt to portray it as such feels too close to home
and, quite frankly, insulting.