Tears of the Sun is a 2003 action war motion-picture directed by Antoine Fuqua; the man behind notable films such as “Training Day” and “Shooter”. Starring Bruce Willis, it is set in a war-torn Nigeria and pivots on the struggles of a U.S Navy SEAL team unit in trying to evacuate and rescue Flore Kendricks (Monica Belluci); a U.S medical practitioner working in the region alongside several locals who had fallen victim to the ongoing chaos.
This film does a great job in painting for you a vivid picture of the war happening in the Western African state right from minute one; a tone of strife, desperation, and grief is set when you get to see innocent bystanders running for dear life as a good number of them are being murdered brutally by rebel forces. In reality, ethnic bloodshed is, without doubt, a staple of the misfortunes that Africans have faced since time immemorial; the latter has been documented a considerable number of times in films over the years and the events that unfold in this Antoine Fuqua narration pretty much mirror the situation as has been and as sadly continues to be in some parts of the continent.
For a movie with such a premise, I can indeed attest to the fact that I wasn’t really paying close attention to most of the acting performances but all the same, it’s a thumbs up for me especially in relation to the leads. In spite of his relative dormancy in the acting space of late, I am and will remain to be a loyal fan of Bruce Willis and understandably so given the films he has been involved in. He plays Lieutenant A.K Waters here, the leader of an elite team of soldiers whose character arc changes quite significantly in a manner that I found admirable.
He starts out sort of like a programmed robot; doing what his superior ordered him to which is to solely extract the American doctor trapped in the hostile environment alongside two others and leave. This, however, does not come to fruition because he finally gets to tap into the humanity trapped under all that combat clothing and years of being at war scenarios in order to consider helping the local victims. It does take a slap, a strong spit on the face and a birds-eye view of the aftermath of an ongoing massacre to do it but nonetheless, it is a good lesson to learn as viewers having watched the film.
Doctor Kendricks, played so well by Monica Belluci was another character I connected with. She has been so accustomed to her adopted life of medical service as well as the people she is serving in the Nigerian woodlands that she can’t leave without them. As she keeps pestering Bruce Willis’s character on the issue which in the beginning put them at loggerheads, you tend to put yourself in her shoes and see why she stands by her word irrespective of the Lieutenant’s mission.
One of my favourite actors who is widely underrated Johnny Messner is also here and part of the SEAL team; I’m not sure why I don’t see much of him these days but having watched him in this film apace with his compatriots Ellis (Eamonn Walker), Danny (Paul Francis) and James (Cole Hauser), it brought back the years for me when I used to be a fan of the ‘Killer Instinct’ and ‘Tarzan’ television shows.
Unless you are a complete and utter sadist to the bone, this movie will unquestionably elicit a number of heartfelt emotions from you. From a deadly attack in a remote village where men are shot mercilessly and women raped and/or subjected to bodily mutilation, to a raid on a church which is filled with injured Nigerians whereby a missionary is decapitated and the others torched alive while in the confines of the religious building; the photoplay gives you a compelling reason to ask yourself why violence exists in the first place and why it’s so prevalent in many societies.
Another thing I liked about this film was that it was exquisitely able to uphold the high stakes of the war that was happening all over Nigeria despite the fact that only a handful of the natives are featured to be amidst the chaos. And to cap off the boons, I was impressed by the fact that this film was focused on delivering the riveting plot and not deviating from the latter by giving the main characters too much characterization. The film’s intent is to sell the conflict aspect and thus you as the viewer don’t need a back-story on, for example, who Lieutenant Waters is and how he got to be the shepherd of a revered American task force unit.
I have a couple of issues with this motion-picture though, one of which might stir quite the controversy so, heads up. There was a substantial regression in the intensity of the bona fide moments whenever the movie cut back to Captain Bill (Tom Skerrit); I was slightly vexed by the fact that the character had the power and will to send enough military arsenal and soldiers to make Water’s team’s predicament a lot easier. For a sizable part of the film, the Captain is more-less concerned about the welfare of the doctor and his men as opposed to the latter as well as the Nigerians.
Lastly, I am not particularly of the opinion that African countries should often be associated with certain social ills in films i.e. war and strife; case in point Edward Zwick’s “Blood Diamond”, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Beasts Of No Nation”, Terry George’s “Hotel Rwanda” which I reviewed in the recent past and even this Antoine Fuqua movie. I get that stories of struggle and combat where there are casualties tend to pack the emotional punch but in my view, there’s more to this continent which should be showcased instead, just saying.
When all is said and done, you will take one important lesson home upon watching Tears Of The Sun; and that lesson is ‘Good always wins’. It doesn’t matter how much suffering you are going through because hope is always around the vicinity and it is thus your obligation to find it and never let go; at least that’s the feeling I got once the credits rolled in.