Tears of the Sun

Somewhere within Tears of the Sun is a deeper message. This movie aspired to be more than the typical action movie, but could never quite figure out what it wanted to say. So it flounders around for a while, before succumbing to the temptations of mindless gunfire and explosions. It would have been interesting if the moral dilemma posited in the beginning carried through to the end, but that is probably expecting too much. Director Antoine Fuqua (Bait), hot off Training Day does have an eye for visuals and has one of the better aspects of action movies, Bruce Willis. Willis (Hart's War, Bandits) is one of the few actors who can easily straddle action and drama (although he's a bit shaky on the latter). He has shown that he can be in an action movie with a little intelligence, becoming a sort of thinking man's action hero.

This would ideally suit him for the role of A.K. Waters, grizzled veteran in charge of unit of Navy SEALS. Willis looks great with his shaved head, fatigues, and death stare. He easily holds a commanding presence over the rest of the crew, and is easily believable in this role. However, Waters is a taciturn man. He is not prone to speaking his mind, or speaking much at all, and herein lies the problem with Patrick Cirillo (Equisite Tenderness, Homer & Eddie) and Alex Lasker's (Beyond Rangoon, Firefox) script. It's hard to hash out the details of a moral dilemma when the main character doesn't speak about it much. What's worse is that Waters even says to one of his subordinates that he doesn't know what exactly he is doing.

Waters' commanders send him to escort Dr. Lena Hendricks (Monica Bellucci, Irreversible, Brotherhood of the Wolf) from a mission in the boonies of Nigeria. Nigeria is undergoing a civil war, and any foreigners are in danger. Hendricks refuses to leave without her patients, and Waters compromises by agreeing to take any patients capable of trekking to a rendezvous point. Once there, Waters evacuates Hendricks but leaves the patients. Not wanting to abandon these people, he turns back and he and his team escort them through the forests of Nigeria, trying to make the Cameroon border before a group of rebels catch up to them.

The issue here for Waters is what the right thing to do is. His mission is Hendricks. However, he knows any patients left behind will surely die. And by taking them in, he is endangering his team and Hendricks, not to mention disobeying a direct order. Fuqua glosses over any meaningful examination of the ramifications, so Tears of the Sun becomes a sort of ultra-dangerous nature hike that leads to violence. The action scenes are shot capably, and it will be interesting to see what Fuqua will do in the future action-wise. And poor Monica Bellucci. With this movie and Irreversible, she has two roles in movies released the same week where she has nothing to do. Her character is central to the plots of both movies, but her actual role is more to just be there than anything else.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 58 minutes, Rated R for strong war violence, some brutality and language.

Back to Movies