Cast & Crew info:
Dr. Lena Hendricks
Produced by Ian
Bryce, Stephen J. Eads, Heidi Fugeman, Mike Lobell, Arnold
Rifkin, Joe Roth and Steven P. Saeta; Directed by Antione
Fuqua; Screenwritten by Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo
Rated R for strong war violence, some brutality and
language; Running Time - 121 Minutes
Domestic Release Dates:
March 7, 2003
by DAVID KEYES
"He was trained to follow orders.
He became a hero by defying them."
- Tagline from "Tears of the Sun"
a shame that A.K. Waters didn't learn anything about humanity
before he descended into the bloodstained jungles of Nigeria,
otherwise he might have spared the audience from enduring
the painful first half hour of "Tears of the Sun."
A the leader of a Special-Ops unit sent into the African
nation to rescue selected American citizens from an impending
"ethnic cleansing," you'd expect him to immediately
emerge as someone who has some sense of priority other than
merely getting a mission completed. So is not the immediate
case, however, and like a confused child, the movie tiptoes
around him for a good 30 minutes before it allows him to
make any kind of personal epiphany. And even then, things
still don't begin to line up the way they should.
The big problem
here is not the fact that Waters lacks balance or even the
fact that he finds it at a rather odd interval of the film,
however. Bruce Willis, who assumes the role, is stone-faced
and emotionally dissonant with the material right up through
the inevitable battle scenes, and his costars stare back
not like followers seeking leadership, but like loose wires
who simply follow foolish examples. These characters are
machines, not individuals, and the very idea that a film
so concerned with war can accept them as protectors is insulting.
The whole picture
is shapeless and badly-written, but it's the first fourth
that assumes the bulk of the blame. There is not even a
complete first actjust two or three minutes of mission
briefing and newsreel footage before it tosses the heroes
into the war-ridden atmosphere. Afterwards, we get to see
them prowl their way across muddy soils and lush vegetation
en route to findingand rescuinga beautiful American
doctor, but not before moral dilemmas begin to manifest.
Will the feisty Dr. Hendricks (Monica Bellucci) leave peacefully
with the soldiers, or will the troop be forced to take the
sick Nigerians with them before they're inevitably exterminated?
Though instructed only to apprehend her and a couple of
others, Waters ends up taking all those who are able and
willing, only to abandon them in a field before exiting
the territory, realizing his unfavorable ways, and abruptly
returning to ensure their survival even if it means leaving
him and his troops stranded in the jungle. Get all that?
There is a puzzling
climactic tone alive in these scenes, as if the movie has
nothing more to say or do with its potential human stories.
In many ways, it really doesn't; the entire last hour, in
fact, is little more than a brainless and stagnant series
of battle scenes and long-winded speeches designed to appeal
to those who care only about big explosions and self-indulgent
monologues. Think for a moment about a film like "Saving
Private Ryan" or even "The Thin Red Line,"
in which characters actually had a voice about the violent
climates rather than just a page of dialogue to recite.
On those levels and more, "Tears of the Sun" is
war fluff for the lobotomized Hollywood crowd, a transparent
and thin effort without rhythm, depth, thrust or even basic
structure. Worst of all, it's clichéd, too.
The minor parts
do have some bright spots. I like the fiery charge of Bellucci
in the Dr. Hendricks role, especially when she stands her
ground and refuses to be bullied by a pack of testosterone-driven
war mongrels, and Tom Skerrit has a couple of good moments
as the Special-Ops commander, even though he, like most
other minor players, is pretty much in the background throughout
the 121-minute running time. Of the significant personas
that exist outside of the armed soldiers, only a passionate
and beautiful assistant to Hendricks emerges with any kind
of established personality. "Help me find my daughter,"
she mutters to a soldier who listens carefully, and in the
end, at least her payoff is there.
The movie's cinematography,
in traditional fashion, captures its prey in fast-paced,
swift and very violent images, but the battle scenes themselves
are too labored to seem genuine. Director Antoine Fuqua,
who was behind "Training Day," isn't motivated
here by natural storytelling or well-executed vision, but
by piling one violent sequence upon another and occasionally
slapping in a minute or two of dialogue between them. It
doesn't have any natural effect on the audience whatsoever;
no, not even when soldiers throw themselves into the line
of fire to protect innocent bystanders or fellow comrades.
No protector in this movie is doing anything from instinct;
they are merely tossing grenades, exchanging gunfire, and
throwing their bodies over hills, rocks and behind trees
because the script obligates them to.
The movie isn't
merely bad, but insulting on an intellectual level as well.
How in the world could anyone get away with throwing so
many things at us in such a sloppy and shallow way? Most
filmmakers who descend into this territory have adopted
the philosophy that any kind of outright narrative or technical
fragmentation can be excused because the movie is about
war (after all, isn't the premise itself important enough
to be emphasized so often?), but that doesn't make it an
acceptable excuse. In fact, thanks to the industry's recent
incessant obsession with it, the genre has joined the sad
barracks of romance comedy and martial arts film as one
of the most overly-stretched setups seen today in a movie,
and "Tears of the Sun" verifies that in every
way possible. The sun may have tears, but it's certainly
not the only thing.
© 2003, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.