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Tears Of The Sun

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Tears Of The Sun

Starring: Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Rated: R
RunTime: 121 Minutes
Release Date: March 2003
Genres: Action, Suspense

Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

This movie proudly acclaims America at its best. It's 1945. The French surround our troops after liberation. With the little English they know they say, "We will never forget you." (They seem to have forgotten already, though, haven't they?) Our boy in uniform pass out chewing gum to the kids and are greeted by lovely women bearing flowers and hugging every American uniform in sight. They are not spitting on us, they are not calling us pigs and warmongers, colonialists and oil barons. What a picture!

Oops. Wrong year. "Tears of the Sun," which does indeed have women saying "I will never forget you" and kids who look up ecstatically at the American troops even without getting a stick of bubble gum from them, takes place in our own time. Americans are not spat upon or called colonialists as they were in "Black Hawk Down." President Bush, who is not mentioned, has apparently brought us into a new era, intent on bringing democracy to Nigeria which is being ravaged by civil war. What's more he has no use for Nigeria's rich deposits of oil but wants only to save a few people, especially a pretty physician working in a remote rain forest not far from the Cameroon border, tending to sick people along with a priest and a few nuns. Captain Rhodes (Tom Skerritt), giving the overall orders, tells Lt. A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis) to rescue only a few designated people and even then (except for the pretty physician) only if they want to leave. Does anyone doubt that the priest and the nuns remain with the injured despite warnings that all will be killed by fierce rebels intent on ethnically cleansing those who are not of their clan?

Though "Tears of the Sun" is formulaic and predictable (some Americans will get killed, lots of rebels will die dramatically, the cavalry just may rescue the good guys at the last moment), Mauro Fiore's photography in this Antoine Fuqua enterprise is superb and should be enjoyed on the big screen. Actually filmed on Hawaii's Oahu island around a well-worn touristic hiking trail of Manoa Falls at the base of the Ko'Olau Mountains, "Tears of the Sun" could easily resemble a similar rain forest in Africa. The dialogue is basic stuff but trilingual Monica Bellucci as Dr. Lena Kendricks is easily the most irritating character in the story. She means well: the road to Cameroon and safety is paved with good intentions. But she resists the lieutenant's orders to keep moving ("My people need to rest!") and refuses to leave unless the U.S. army squadron takes along seventy or so refugees in the choppers.

Bruce Willis does fine in a story that's not especially interested in developing his character. He's just an army grunt in whom we're interested only to see whether he's going to continue robotically following orders (to leave the refugees behind) as he has done throughout his 25-year career or to follow his conscience. In that regard, Sophocles has nothing to worry about: his "Antigone" is the superior work, though the Greek playwright did not have access to actresses like Monica Bellucci whose blouse remains unbuttoned halfway throughout her escape and who at one point casts a come-on to the lieutenant who, alas, is more intent on saving his life and those of his men than of following up.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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