Ironic, how "Tears of the Sun" is occasionally so dark that the action
and characters appear as nothing but obscure shadows. Ironic, too,
that a motion picture with such a poetic title isn't poetic in the
faintest. One part unconvincing, jingoistic war picture and one part
melodramatic, preachy hogwash, "Tears of the Sun" is a slow-paced
slog that adds up to not much more than a sour taste in the viewer's mouth.
Muslim rebels have assassinated the President and his family, and
gone on a killing spree through the war-torn countryside of Nigeria.
Such a set-up, which reminds of the current political waters in Iraq,
may or may not prove beneficial to the film's box-office receipts,
although its overly sincere and often ludicrous particulars certainly
won't be helping matters.
To aid in rescuing Dr. Lena Hendricks (Monica Bellucci), an American
stationed in harm's way, Captain Bill Rhodes (Tom Skerritt) enlists
his Navy Seals platoon, headed by no-nonsense Lt. A.K. Waters (Bruce
Willis), to get the job done. While Lena is quickly located, she refuses
to leave without taking all of the refugees from her mission with
her. Waters balks at first, but after witnessing first-hand the savagery
at work within the rebels, agrees to lead a dangerous trek across
the Nigerian jungles to safety at the Cameroon border.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (2001's "Training Day"), "Tears of the Sun"
is unconvincing in nearly every way. Its moral, which is spelled out
for audiences in a title card at the end, states, "All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil is for a good man to do nothing." While such
a notion is all well and good, the movie bypasses subtlety in storytelling
in favor of hammering home the point with undeserved mawkish sentiment.
It doesn't help that screenwriters Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo
proven entirely inept at establishing and developing its characters.
Were the viewer able to care about the people involved in the story,
the syrupy final act might have held more resonance. As it is, protagonists
Lt. A.K. Waters and Dr. Lena Hendricks are one-note ciphers whose
backgrounds are completely neglected in favor of a whole lot of wordless
wandering in the jungle. Additionally, cinematographer Mauro Fiore
(2001's "Driven") apparently carried out his job with a busted camera
bulb and no additional lighting equipment. The goings-on in the first
half are almost incomprehensible within their needlessly dim surroundings.
In his second inauspicious war picture in a row, Bruce Willis (2002's
"Hart's War") should think about finding a different genre to work
in. His A.K. Waters is paper-thin, and Willis is so uninspired as
to almost feel like an extra rather than a lead performer. As. Dr.
Lena Hendricks, let's just say Monica Bellucci is every bit Willis'
equal. As for poor Tom Skerritt (2001's "Texas Rangers"), he literally
phones in his performance atop the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman while endless
aircraft carriers hilariously fly by on every shot, threatening to drown out his dialogue.
If nothing notable occurs in the first 90 minutes of "Tears of the
Sun," then the final half-hour is a "been-there-done-that" battle
sequence that succumbs into shameless bottom-feeding and a happy ending
that can't be bought for a second. If there is a compliment to be
given, it goes to Hans Zimmer's lusciously exuberant music score.
The catch is that it isn't far removed from Zimmer's score for 1994's
"The Lion King," a family film infinitely more intelligent and existential
in any five-minute section than "Tears of the Sun" offers in its whole.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman