Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: "Tears of the Sun" Offers Sentiment with Military Action

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 30 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tears of the Sun (2003)
Running time: 121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for strong war violence, some brutality and language
DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua
WRITERS: Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo
PRODUCERS: Ian Bryce, Mike Lobell, and Arnold Rifkin
EDITOR: Conrad Buff IV
COMPOSER: Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer

WAR/ACTION/DRAMA with elements of a thriller

Starring: Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Eamonn Walker, Charles Ingram, Tom Skerritt, and Malick Bowens

Is Tears of the Sun a good movie? Well, the boy parts: the action, the blood and guts, the special ops intrigue, the shootouts, the male camaraderie, etc. are good There’s lots of that and it’s as good, in that respect as, say, Black Hawk Down. The parts of the film that’s supposed to pass for girl stuff: concerned foreign doctors, martyred priests and nuns, and defenseless refugees are negligible. It’s not that you won’t feel sympathetic to the plight of natives being hunted by genocidal soldiers because there are some touching moments and some very riveting, frightening moments, but they get in the way of a very good movie about a group of brave soldiers.

A special operations commander, A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis), leads his team into remote Nigeria to rescue an American doctor (Monica Bellucci). However, Dr. Lena Hendricks refuses to leave without her village friends whom she calls “my people.” When Waters gets to feeling that he can’t leave Lena’s people behind to be slaughtered by vicious rebel troops, he puts himself and his men on a perilous journey through the thick Nigerian jungles to bring the doctor and her people to safe harbor. Not only does escorting civilians slow the team down, but there’s a horde of vicious killers on their trail.

Director Antoine Fuqua has a deft touch with the military scenes. They’re exciting and invigorating; he has the infinite patience to let his camera soak in the special operatives stealth work and also the vigor to grasp the sudden and rapid violence of a firefight. In Training Day, Fuqua wasn’t good with the film’s few sentimental and romantic moments. They might have been important in establishing Training Day’s characters, but the sentiment took a back seat to the conflict between the lead characters.

Here, the soft moments, those moments when the film focuses on the plight of the refugees and the hideous, soul wrenching horror of post-colonial Africa, are boring and they hamper the film. Unlike Training Day, sentiment is important to Tears. I just didn’t care about that in this film, although I do care when I’m not busy demanding blood and gore from my entertainment. The special ops guys mesmerized me: their camaraderie, their bravery, their sense of humanity and kindness even in the face of long odds, and their believe in the team that makes them do even the things upon which individuals disagree. All this machismo in a movie makes for effective war propaganda.

The quality of the acting ranges from very good to average. Willis is himself, a bit of ham at the most inopportune moments, and Ms. Bellucci’s succeeds in making an annoying character quite annoying and self-righteous. The actors who make up Waters team including Cole Hauser are excellent; they carry the film and make it worth seeing. And that’s the recommendation, Tears of the Sun is an entertaining film with edge of your seat action and scenes that skirt your nerves along the razor’s edge, very similar to Black Hawk Down, albeit a lower rent version, but still a good film.

6 of 10

2004 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Film: Best Director” (Antoine Fuqua)


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