Tears of the Sun Review
By Shawn McKenzie 03/07/2003
Do you think it is possible to get carried away when you are comparing a movie to another movie in order to sell that movie? The ads for this movie, Tears of the Sun, are saying this is the best war flick since Black Hawk Down and the best Bruce Willis movie since Die Hard. I disagree with both statements though.
Political disorder has spread through Nigeria and ethnic cleansing has become extensive after rebels murder the Nigerian Presidential family. For that reason, Captain Bill Rhodes (Tom Skerritt) of the aircraft carrier Harry Truman has sent Navy SEAL commander Lieutenant A.K. Waters (Willis) and his crew to find and pull out foreign aid worker Dr. Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci) along with Father Gianni (Pierrino Mascarino) and two nuns from a jungle mission hospital. Waters’ crew consists of Jason “Flea” Mabry (Chad Smith), Danny “Doc” Kelley (Paul Francis), Kelly Lake (Johnny Messner), Michael “Slo” Slowenski (Nick Chinlund), James “Red” Atkins (Cole Hauser), Demetrius “Silk” Owens (Charles Ingram), and Ellis “Zee” Pettigrew (Eamonn Walker.) They find Kendricks and the others, but they refuse to leave without their patients. Since Waters wants to get them out before the rebels got there, he makes the decision to tell Kendricks that they can take any patients that are able to walk under their own power. They then start going through the jungle towards the pickup point several miles away with Patience (Akosua Busia), Arthur Azuka (Sammi Rotibi), Gideon (Jimmy Jean-Louis), and others, including children. When they get to that pickup point though, Waters tells Kendricks that they're only taking her, which doesn’t make her too happy. On their way back to the carrier, they see a massacre at the mission, and it gets to Waters’ conscious. He decides to go back and get the patients that they had left behind, but since the choppers could only take a few of them to safety, Waters and his team must lead Kendricks and the left behind villagers to the border of Cameroon on foot. At one point during their trek, they observe a village being ethnically cleansed. Waters and his team go against their rules of engagement and confront the enemy. Also during the hike, they realize that the rebels are quickly closing in on them. From that point on, they try to get everyone to the border swiftly and in one piece, all while trying to figure out how and why the rebels are following them.
Why isn’t this movie as good as Black Hawk Down or Die Hard? First, I must state that I wasn’t as overwhelmingly impressed with Black Hawk Down as everyone else. It may be that I was burned out by war movies at that time, but it didn’t give me the same impressions that movies like Saving Private Ryan or Full Metal Jacket did. It was just pretty standard to me. As far as the comparison to Die Hard, that is very unfair. The movies couldn’t be any more different. There are only a few similarities. They both have Willis, they both have action involving guns in them, and they both shared a title briefly at one time. This movie was originally going to be called Man of War, but Willis liked the subtitle of the script for the upcoming Die Hard 4, which was Tears of the Sun, and made a deal to commit to the fourth Die Hard movie if they could take its subtitle and give it to this movie. Otherwise, the snarky bad boy Det. John McClane and the stone-cold serious Lt. Waters are very different. There are no sarcastic quips here, it’s all business. Like Black Hawk Down, I felt this movie was just all right, but there was not a whole lot that stood out for me.
That’s not to say I hated the movie. A couple of things were cool. It is the first “modern” war movie I’ve ever seen, i.e. the first time a war movie didn’t take place during a specific time period in the past. The soldiers utilized communication devices that I haven’t seen before in war movies, like walkman-like earpieces that didn’t look distracting, satellite phones, and a laptop satellite tracking device. Also, when they engaged the enemy at the village, they did it quickly and quietly, instead of just rushing in and shooting all the bad guys. I always wondered why soldiers didn’t do this in other war movies (maybe they didn’t have the silencers that these soldiers had.)
I suppose you could say that if you liked Black Hawk Down, you’ll like Tears of the Sun, but that doesn’t necessarily work for me. The first part of the movie drags, and doesn’t get interesting until after the pickup location deception scene. Training Day director Antoine Fuqua’s direction and Mauro Fiore’s cinematography are excellent, so visually this movie is impressive, but I may just still be burned out on war movies. If you aren’t burnt out yourself yet, check it out, but don’t expect to see Die Hard on the screen.
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