Tears of the Sun (2003)


Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2

Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Tears of the Sun is a terrible name for a movie.  My only guess is that the screenplay (or book if there was one) has some sort of African name that didn't translate to English and this was the best they could do.  So coming right out of the gate the film has that strike against it.  Another unfortunate is that the film was released so close to the war in Iraq.  Most people are, at this point, glued to their TV's watching a real war or sick of war and war related issues.  I don't expect this film will do well at the box office and that's too bad.  It's a well made, cinematically brilliant war movie.  They probably should have kept it on the shelf for a while.  

Tears tells the story of a group of special ops soldiers that are sent into Nigeria to rescue/evacuate an American doctor who is helping with civilian casualties that result from the civil war/genocide that is taking place.  His mission is to rescue the doctor only, but she refuses to abandon the people she has been assisting.  He agrees to take the ambulatory locals as well.  They hike to the evacuation point but it is immediately obvious that the commander has no intention of taking anyone but his men and the doctor.  He pushes her onto the helicopter and abandons the rest.  As they fly over the mission where the doctor was working, they see that the guerrilla military soldiers have slaughtered everyone who remained including the priests and nuns that refused to leave.  He ponders this for a moment and then returns to the evacuation site where he loads the helicopter with the children and elderly and sends it away.  The commander then leads the rest of the survivors and his troops toward the border of Cameroon where they can escape the guerrilla soldiers that are hot on their trail and determined to kill them all.

I love Bruce Willis movies.  There I said it.  I've probably said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again.  I know this puts my credibility on the line with many of you but honestly, you like him too.  You know you do!  Even if you won't admit it to anyone or even yourself.  I have no idea what he's like as a real person.  He's such a big star that he's probably a jerk, but I watch and will continue to watch every movie he makes because I like Bruce Willis movies.  Rising international star Monica Belluci plays the doctor.  This is not really a role that requires a great actress but she does a fine job.  I liked her in Le Pacte des Loups and I am looking forward to her work in the Matrix sequels as Persephone.  I also hope to see her in the highly critically acclaimed Irréversible but I doubt that the film will ever play nearby so I will have to wait for the DVD. 

Tears of the Sun does not really have any special effects other than the typical war variety.  It does a fine job with these and it has the requisite brutal realism that we have come to expect from war movies.  Like Saving Private Ryan, the soldiers are given just enough background, detail and time so that you are truly upset when they die. 

As with all U.S. military actions since World War II, I'm not really sure what our troops were doing fighting in Nigeria.  This is never really adequately explained in the film either.  Like Black Hawk Down and similar movies before and after, this film exemplifies the wasted lives of American soldiers who are asked to die for no reason at all.  I'm sure that 10 years from now we will see a whole genre of films dedicated to the wars we have waged in Africa and the Middle East.  Hopefully through the lens of time we will be able to explain our sacrifice.