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Tears of the Sun **1/2
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starring Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser
directed by Antoine Fuqua 


Tears of the Sun is one of those movies that leaves you wishing that the grit applied was not forced but natural. Much of the film is spent with the characters covered in mud and/or camouflage paint, making emotion hard to read on their faces. Perhaps this is because director Antoine Fuqua of Training Day and Replacement Killers fame wanted to convey that the soldiers were cut off from their emotions before they gave into the compassion that the situation called for. Thatd be a cool explanation, but its more likely that it added to the coolness and believability of the film. This and other techniques leave the film with too many ambiguities to interpret the meaning of the film. The film is fine as a action film, but it strives to be more and so its important to try and analyze the techniques used to convey the themes and messages.

The film opens with a news report detailing a conflict in Africa. The royal family has been executed and the rebels have taken over the streets. A religious cleansing has been initiated, placing all Christians within the troubled area in danger. Lt. Waters (Bruce Willis) and his team of Navy SEALS are ordered to rescue a American citizen by marriage, Dr. Lena Hendricks (Monica Bellucci of Brotherhood of the Wolf and the upcoming Matrix sequals). Hendricks is using her expertise to treat the many ailing refugees who come to the mission that she works at. We are shown the results of the conflict within the country: men with bloody bandages and amputated legs, babies crying, and the like.

The SEAL team enters the mission in dramatic fashion and tells Dr. Hendricks its time to go. She refuses adamantly to leave her patients behind. Willis throws some stone faced glances her way, but Hendricks is stubborn as well. Willis repeatedly explains that they came only for her, two nuns and a priest if they are willing. Hendricks persists and Willis offers to take along all the patients who are able to walk. Soon, a large mass of thankful natives stand in a long line with crutches and what little they can carry.

Willis leads his men and the line through the jungles of Africa towards their pickup point. They arrive and Willis orders Hendricks to get into the helicopter before her. She struggles, but Willis manages to force her into the helicopter. The SEALS and Hendricks fly off leaving the bewildered refugees standing in disbelief. The copter flies over the mission and the brutal scene left behind by rebels. Willis changes his mind and goes back to attempt to lead the refugees to the Cameroon borders and safety.

The film has taken into consideration the complaints from critics that war films of late (specifically Black Hawk Down) have neglected to give us characters distinguishable from each other, that is that theres no depth applied to each character. I have never felt that way. In fact, I found Black Hawk Down to be an excellent film in all areas.

The main characters in Tears of the Sun are all granted their moments in the spotlight. Theres no question that Willis is the star here, but some of the soldiers, such as the ones played by Cole Houser and Eamonn Walker, are given the chance to emote and hover around the moral decisions war creates in a convincing manner. I have no gripes with the acting in the film, each performance was solid, but not great. My complaint is with the writing of screenwriters Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo. They have created a good plot with true conflict, but there are times when the dialogue is too unbelievable to convince me of its authenticity. That isnt to say that all the dialogue leans towards the unbelievable, much of the dialogue is well written, but its the moments where its lacking that stayed with me.

Director Antoine Fuqua has a knack for catching the grittiness and beauty of the environments he shoots in. Tears is no exception. The cinematography is probably the films strongest asset. Shots are captured that catch the eye and others disturb what beauty we had in mind from the previous shot. The ability Fuqua showed in his direction of actors Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke is not as prominent as I was hoping for. Each character is fleshed out, but no one actor separates himself from the pact. A average to good performance is offered when I was expecting more considering the superior work of the cast in Training Day.

Its not that I didnt like Tears of the Sun. I would recommend it if my opinion was asked for. I just wish everyone had gotten their act together and given audiences the very good movie that seemed to be out of reach.

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