Tears of the Sun

It seems that when Bruce Willis said that he’d no longer make violent movies, he lied. Tears of the Sun is his first collaboration with director Antoine Fuqua (careful how you say his surname) who previously gave us Training Day and The Replacement Killers.

Set during a violent uprising in Nigeria we learn that the entire presidential family has been executed. Cut to the deck of a US battleship somewhere off the coast of Africa, where veteran Navy SEAL lieutenant A. K. Waters (Bruce Willis) and his squad of hardened SEALs are ordered to go into Nigeria to rescue some foreign nationals, namely Dr Kendricks (Monica Bellucci), a priest and two nuns.

After reaching the Mission, Waters and his squad manage to find the Doctor, Priest and the two nuns. Time is limited as the SEALs noticed that a large group of Nigerian rebel soldiers are on their way to the Mission. Things do not go as planned when Kendricks refuses to leave her patients behind. Waters elects to take her and her patients on foot to the Cameroon border – a risky move especially with the rebel forces right behind them. 

So with patients and Doctor in tow Waters and his men rush to get to the border before the rebel forces manage to catch up with them. Things are further complicated as Waters orders were very specific regarding rules of engagements – do not get involved in the uprising and disturbance of Nigeria and remain disengaged from the conflict. By taking the patients he has already directly disobeyed orders but things are about to get worse as not all the patients are who they claim to be.

Tears of the Sun meanders at a slow pace for the first half before suddenly kicking into high gear and going all gung-ho. The methods and skills of the SEALs are very good and they do come across as a well oiled unit – looks like the military advisors on the film have been working overtime. It’s a surprisingly violent film at time with scenes of graphic horror such as a woman having her breast cut off and left to die, along with dead babies and mutilated corpses in abundance.

Bruce Willis is good as the hardened military man and even manages to shed a tear or two (but more on that later). Some of his dialogue is painfully gung-ho and reeks of Hollywood machismos. Monica Bellucci struggles with the English language, but is very easy on the eye – even after trekking through the jungle and mud for days on end. Why she runs around the jungle with her shirt unbuttoned enough to reveal enough bouncy cleavage to kill grown men is anyone’s guess – but hey, let’s not worry why, let’s just enjoy it!

The biggest problem with Tears of the Sun is if Waters is a hardened Navy SEAL, who has seen a lot of action, why he just abandons his orders at the first signs of trouble is anyone’s guess. The atrocities depicted in the film would not stir the soul of a highly trained commando like Waters and it seems that the number of soldiers disobeying orders in Hollywood is on the rise. Do orders mean nothing to them anymore? The entire ethos of Special Forces is to get the job done regardless, not to say bugger it, let’s get involved in the plight of some faceless natives, but that’s Hollywood for you. When did the Special Forces become so soft?

It seems that the filmmakers tried too hard in trying to make all the characters into more rounded human beings but completely forgot about the people being saved, as the natives are totally and completely faceless.

The action is realistically portrayed and unlike the sensationalised violence of films such as Black Hawk Down and the like, Tears of the Sun shows a real sense of the cost of combat and loss of life. It does sidestep the political aspects of West Africa and it’s a shame that the only way a lot of people would ever see anything on the subject is through films rather than on the news. It seems that the might of western military machines doesn’t bother helping in countries unless there is some ulterior benefit to them – oops, getting a little political now.

Tears of the Sun is entertaining enough for the most part – the ending reeks of jingoistic cinema with the sight of Waters running through a stream in slow motion, Kendricks slung across his shoulders whilst he fires at hordes of rebels. It’s not helped by the sight of tear-stained natives crying and professing their love for Waters and his men for saving them and that they will never forget them. It just comes across and overdone hedonism and with the ‘humanity before duty’ thread the film does suffer from a little nausea.

Score 6/10