Tears of the Sun

August 14th, 2003 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Tom Skerritt

If you’re a left-leaning liberal, it’s getting harder to watch films depicting the heroic actions of the US military with a straight face while the American government uses the real US military to consolidate its neo-colonial grip on power, complicit in the slaughter of millions.

It’s even harder when scriptwriters seem to intentionally add insult to injury to the people and countries the US has subjugated, undermined or bombed in the last half century.

It’s hard to keep a straight face when a soldier moodily grumbles ‘It’s not our f#@kin’ war’ because places like Nicaragua, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq spring to mind. When — after much pro-American flag waving — the film closes with the famous quote by Edmund Burke (‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’), because even more places will spring to mind; Rwanda, East Timor, Afghanistan once more.

But if enjoying the film means detaching yourself from the reality of today’s geopolitics and believing the American values Hollywood and not Washington teaches us, will you still like it?

It’s undeniably powerful, and there are more than a few sniffles to be had at brutality, cruelty and horror. Training Day director Antoine Fuqua and stoic, silent hero Bruce Willis give us a slick and emotional film with an underlying sadness that relies more on tension than action, which may be where the film fails to find the right audience.

It’s not the kind of action 15 year old boys go to the movies for, and the emotional core will be either lost on the younger viewer or bore them to tears waiting for Bruce and Co. to start shooting.

The leader of a small group of elite soldiers, Willis has orders to extract a doctor (Monica Bellucci) from a medical mission in the rainforests of war-torn Nigeria. When she refuses unless they rescue her 70 patients as well, Bruce seems to find his heart and leads them all to the pickup zone with enemy rebels hot on their heels.

When the choppers land, he bundles the winsome doctor to the waiting rescue and abandons the refugees — his ploy of tricking her into coming by telling her he’d take them all over with. Wracked by guilt mid-flight, Bruce finds his heart, spins the convoy around and pledges to lead the whole band to the safety of the Cameroon border.

From there it’s a pretty run of the mill chase story despite the technical filmmaking prowess and tension inherent in the story, but there’s a little too much flag waving in the story itself as well as the dubious politics. For instance, it seems every member of the small platoon gets shot at least once in the final assault, yet they all survive to do the triumphant stagger to the border.

Despite Bruce’s onscreen presence, he’s looking distinctly tired and it appears his days of leaping off Nakatomi Plaza are over. Monica Bellucci’s role will be a blight on a career that’s been almost faultless thus far — after awhile of her flashing her fiery eyes and complaining you’ll want to slap her.

Technically, it’s a great movie. The music does an excellent job of keeping the tension crackling and the sadness weighing on you like a blanket, and the cinematography, editing and direction are clean, tight and nearly perfect.

But it’s also nothing we haven’t seen before (most recently in Black Hawk Down) — the US army displaying its ingenuity and grit by entering a hostile African country and performing a heroic rescue against the odds. In fact, if you’ve seen the trailer, you don’t really need to see the movie.

But if you do, and you can’t stand the kind of pro-American jingoism that’s been a staple of Hollywood blockbusters from Independence Day and Armageddon to Pearl Harbour, take a sick bag.


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