After such films as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Hart's War, Bruce Willis finally returns to the action genre in Tears of the Sun, a war thriller about a squad of Navy SEALS that attempt to escort several refugees out of hostile Nigeria.
The most observant of fans may have noticed that Tears of the Sun shares the same plot and title with the script that was long attached to Willis' Die Hard 4. Unfortunately, those looking for a Die Hard level of action may be disappointed, as Tears of the Sun leans more towards the dramatic side, or way past it.
Tears of the Sun has some great action scenes, but it surprisingly has a lot more drama than anything else. The movie is, after all, about a Navy Lieutenant who, after witnessing what is being done to the Nigerian people, decides to rescue a few dozen refugees from certain execution. The movie has its fair share of moral dilemmas, as Willis is forced to decide between his orders to extract a single American doctor and his feelings as a human being. The result is many long and drawn-out scenes that take away from the pace of the film.
Though Tears of the Sun takes a while to get going, I was captivated from minute one. I liked the visual tone of the film, and especially liked the darkness of the jungle; director Antoine Fuqua avoids the "lighted" jungle effect that is used in so many movies. I am a fan of Bruce Willis, and shots of Monica Bellucci (who will become more famous in this year's The Matrix sequels) running around in a revealing shirt are nice. I also like war films, and the scene where the eight soldiers take on several men in a small village was really fun to watch. I also liked the suspense that is built up while in the jungle, especially towards the beginning; Fuqua isn't too hasty to jump into the action. He teases the audience a little bit, and I liked it.
Unfortunately, as already mentioned, Tears of the Sun becomes diluted in its drama. For those of you who don't like films that glamorize the American military, then Tears of the Sun is not for you. These soldiers are tough, skilled, and morally sound; at the end, the survivors are greeted with many of thanks for their job well done. For those of you who don't like long scenes where the characters silently contemplate their moral dilemma for no specific reason, then this isn't for you. Fuqua tries way too hard to transform what could have been an excellent action film into something more than that, but what he gets is only an overly melodramatic war film. The pieces don't fit quite right.
I loved the action, and I loved the visuals, but the many scenes where Bruce Willis stared off into nowhere grew tired real quickly. Willis says about ten words in the whole movie. Bellucci says a little more, but it's always "My people will die" or "I'm sorry." There is really quite little character development, and I never got to know the characters enough to care about them. Most of the time I could not tell who was who.
If Fuqua had focused more on action and suspense than dramatic scenes that really don't do a fictional war film justice, he might have had a great film on his hands. Since he didn't do that, Tears of the Sun is a fairly entertaining but relatively mindless action-drama that will appeal to the middle people, but not the die hard (or Die Hard) Bruce Willis fans or those looking for an intellectual piece of work. Taken at face value, though, Tears of the Sun is worth a look.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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