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Overall Rating

Awesome: 27.14%
Worth A Look31.43%
Average: 14.29%
Pretty Bad: 18.57%
Total Crap: 8.57%

4 reviews, 46 user ratings

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Tears of the Sun
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by Erik Childress

"The same film with the same questions, but a well-made one"
4 stars

In a world…where we’re on the brink of another armed skirmish and Kangaroo Jack grosses $60 million, the last thing I really needed to see was another “war” movie. Not really a war movie persay, but another we’re stuck behind enemy lines and have to get the boys out kinda thing. Do we really need Bruce Willis playing another quiet-but-hard spoken hero with the potential to martyr himself again for the greater good? Shouldn’t Antoine Fuqua have quit while he was ahead with Training Day as everything about his resume screams “one-trick pony?” Low expectations aside, imagine my surprise when I found myself rather involved with a film that quietly ingratitates itself into your head while not really offering anything new.

With a screenplay cobbled together from the limbs and shrapnel of other battle pictures, Tears from the Sun opens with an eight-man Navy special-ops force (whatever happened to SEALs?) called in to extract a doctor, a priest and some nuns from a bar…I mean, the jungles of Africa. Rebel forces have assassinated the country’s royal family and are frosting the foliage with genocide. Simple snatch-and-grab job as Matt Damon’s Ocean’s Eleven character might say, but like his Private Ryan, the packages are more than a little reluctant to leave.

Dr. Lena Hendricks (Monica Bellucci, who conveniently leaves her shirt open for numerous cleavage opportunities) doesn’t want to leave without the people she’s cared for. Lt. Waters (Willis) humors her by gathering up those who can travel to the pick-up site, but has no intention on bringing them out. But a momentary crisis of conscience gets the better of Waters when he sees what happened to their village and he replaces the cargo over the objections of his superior commander (Tom Skerritt, who should know it's better to talk on a phone anywhere but the landing strip of an aircraft carrier). “A lot of scenarios could happen. I don’t pretend to know them all,” says Waters.

But in movies we know the scenario. In true hot zone fashion, Waters and his men can’t be picked up immediately with a second trip so they must trek to a new rendezvous point with Lena and several refugees in tow while the rebels are meticulously tracking their position. Most of the Navy crew is interchangable with none of them getting a chance to develop their own personality except for Atkins (Cole Hauser). He’s a loyal soldier but is wary as to why he would risk the lives of his men. (The better question would be why couldn’t the Doctor have been airlifted out with the first batch if she was the sole purpose of the mission.) It takes a long time for the “L.T.” to figure that out for himself too. “It’s been so long since I did a good thing or a right thing.”

Politics and motivation are as simplistic as they come, but in a time of impending war maybe its unconsciously addressing the side of the issue that many people think but are afraid to voice. There are some incredibly evil people in this world and while people protest armed aggression and want to “understand” what makes the enemy tick, the simplification of the villainous rebels here was quite refreshing. “This is what they do,” says the always tearful and thankful female refugee.

The understanding of this amongst Waters and his men takes a while to materialize and I credit Fuqua for developing the story along this path instead of amping up the action at every turn and offering split-second personality turnarounds. There are actually only two action sequences in the entire film with the extended firefight climax a rather engaging and well-filmed piece. No claustrophobic close-ups, shaky cam or the slipshod editing of nearly every action film since Saving Private Ryan. Just the chessboard and its pieces.

Tears of the Sun isn’t as intellectually stimulating as Three Kings nor is it as stoic (We Were Soldiers) or half-witted (Behind Enemy Lines) as the films clearly used as a blueprint. Black Hawk Down was praised for its savvy of the battlefield and the men-under-fire. It also didn’t give much of a face to the enemies nor the politics of why we fighting in the first place. The screenplay by Patrick Cirillo and Malcolm Clarke, no matter how passive, does call into question how far a nation should involve itself with the problems of others as well as that nation’s ability to “cowboy the fuck up” (as Waters urgently puts it) in solving their own problems. Even those with the best intentions of offering mediatory relief between the warring factions may be nothing but targets in the end for pure, unfiltered evil.

A film like this will never be held up for infinite answers in the everlasting debates of war. At its heart, its still just an action picture with a dash of social commentary on the side, but still a skillfully made one. Hollywood stars and the government can deliberate all they want on the merits of sending troops into Iraq or any other part of the world, but occasionally its nice to see the evildoers in the crosshairs of a state-of-the-art scope or in the strafing path of fire. Waters says that “God already left Africa.” Hopefully there is a God and he’s still willing to punish evil, instead of debating it.

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originally posted: 03/07/03 09:08:18
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell not a bad flick 3 stars
6/07/16 FrankBlank Good film. Good portrayal of fear. Your criticisms inane. "tears of the sun":::It's Africa. 4 stars
3/08/13 MR A 'wisecracking soldier' to lighten the genocide!? BTW- Sneak attack/retreat is strategy. 5 stars
8/27/10 rebecca Fantastic film, conveys empathy against overwhelming odds, a good mission, beautiful scener 5 stars
5/01/10 Arkman And don't forget the "anonymous black savages" that 1/2 of the SEALS died to save 5 stars
11/12/09 Lt. USN The reviewer has no concept of SPECWAR nor of the reality in Africa 5 stars
11/12/09 Lt. USN Having worked extensively with U SEAL team members, the film depicted reality. 5 stars
8/15/09 Jeff Wilder Acting and direction fine. But script weak, 2 stars
4/13/09 SKJ Good movie. Should have humanized the bad guys more than mindless targets. 4 stars
1/28/09 Mike Strube The review shows that its author has NEVER been to africa. I have been 1994 in Zaire. 5 stars
4/27/08 Matus Super film 5 stars
4/03/08 beau a powerful movie! it makes you wonder how people can live in those kinds of environments 4 stars
2/10/08 dracel29 amazing, marvelous, incredible, fantastic!!!!!!!!!! i dont know what to say anymore....! 1 stars
6/09/06 Frank Rountree The acting was very good, the movie was fair. 3 stars
2/26/06 ES Excellent and unforgiving, a masterpiece 5 stars
12/31/05 Ronin Willis is cool and Monica indeed is a very charismatic person. I liked it 4 stars
9/23/05 noopy nice acting by willis.....gr8 movie ...... 5 stars
7/17/05 Conner Great movie 5 stars
7/06/05 R.W. Welch Unrelievedly grim military actioner. Done well enough but not much plot. 3 stars
3/29/05 Vince This was so bad I had to stop watching ten minutes into it. 1 stars
9/16/04 Yuku Pwned da WORLD 5 stars
9/14/04 Dan WTFPWNT 5 stars
5/09/04 John it seems inspired by THE WILD GEESE but it's nowhere near as good 2 stars
5/03/04 Sarah Ecellent 5 stars
12/19/03 the Grinch Is Bellucci didn't give me a rise in my Gucci's, I'd have to give rate it P.C. Crap writing 3 stars
9/08/03 Ingo Bad acting (Willis, Bellucci, etc) & too many clichés. 2 stars
8/27/03 Robbie Hawkwind More Plot holes than a colander. Just not belivable 2 stars
8/09/03 WestcoastPunk If u can watch closly u can see that this shity movie has so many holes in the plot 1 stars
6/14/03 Jack Sommersby Well-acted and -directed, but the writing is terribly cliched and preachy. 2 stars
6/06/03 Al Bert well done 5 stars
5/22/03 Osama Bin Laden Justice, the US way... 1 stars
4/15/03 Mitsaso Monica Bellucci really saves the whole situation there 4 stars
3/29/03 Keane AWESOME!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/22/03 Susan Salisbury A Must See 4 stars
3/17/03 Cameron Slick Tries to be high-minded, but in the end, it's just a stylish action movie. 4 stars
3/13/03 Luckystrike This story line reminds me of…oh yeah every American war movie. 1 stars
3/12/03 Paul Coleman Well made but seems somewhat political in its theme. 4 stars
3/12/03 Knickerbocker Well-filmed! Not Overdone. 4 stars
3/10/03 nick2k besides it being sooo UNrealistically possible, it was still really good. 4 stars
3/09/03 Jiz Booooring! Willis's character would get the biggest court marshall ever if this made sense 2 stars
3/09/03 Mr GC Bad Plot. Boring action scenes. 2 stars
3/09/03 Cait Logan awesome 5 stars
3/09/03 Eric Entertaining and thoughtful, the lengthy climactic battle scene is excellent. 5 stars
3/09/03 Obi Wan Very good even though not too much action.. 5 stars
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  07-Mar-2003 (R)
  DVD: 07-Jun-2005



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