TEARS OF THE SUN
Sony Pictures, 2003
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
STARING: Bruce Willis
OVERALL: I have been a fan of Bruce’s since Die Hard and I still like him (mostly because I have a thing for the underdog and, in this case, actors that my intellectual friends love to hate). I would not have watched this movie if Bruce had not been in it and, despite reading the synopsis that Sony provided, I still think that this was the point. If Bruce had not been in this movie no one would have seen it. Hell, as it is I do not think that many people did.
Regardless of the phoney synopsis provided by Sony, this movie was about the death and ethnic cleansing in Nigeria following the last “revolution”. That someone chose to tell this story by placing a fictional U.S. military group within the country at the time highlights the irony of the U.S. non-involvement in countries that are not immediately important to them.
Unfortunately, Bruce’s draw (and to some extent Fuqua’s – he did direct training day) was probably lost to Fuqua’s over-zealous hard-on for filming the contrasts between the landscape, the people and the political. Long, Loooooong shots of rolling, cloud covered hills and slow pans of the beautifully contrasting colours of Africa destroyed any hope that this would be a decent action movie and, as an action movie, it would have been good. The battle scenes were terrific. Hard, cold, textured, real. However, Fuqua forgot that no one goes to a movie to see Bruce Willis act. No one (particularly Bruce) needs lengthy close-ups of his face that attempt to demonstrate the conflict that is going on in his mind. Not that Bruce can’t do this (surprisingly enough) but it is not what Bruce is for and it certainly is not what he is for in a movie about slaughter and cool military toys.
Of course, without all the time wasted on drama and scenery, the movie would have had a run time of about twenty minutes. Adding to these twenty minutes by having more action probably would have been too expensive in a movie that Sony was worried about enough to pre-face with a denial that they had anything to do with the content or opinions.
The horror that this movie is about is what makes it worth seeing (even if it does not make it a good movie). The fact that American soldiers had to be used to carry the movie is sad but is just a symptom of the egocentric American mind-set. Had this movie been about someone who actually may have been there at the time (say, a U.N. contingent or a few Red Cross workers) no one would have cared. To get anyone to see it, this movie had to be about Bruce fighting in the jungle and, according to Sony, his character deciding whether to follow orders or do the right thing (although no such challenge occurs as, for some reason, the U.S. Naval Command is more than happy to allow Lieutenant’s in the field make decisions of enormous political consequence).
But I don’t think that the whole Bruce Willis side of the movie was very important to Fuqua (or Bruce for that matter), even if it was to Sony. This movie appeared to me to be a way of getting people interested in the war and human disaster in Nigeria. The American Marines angle was, to me, just a method of getting people to the theatre. My advice to (North) Americans would be to rent this movie (the fight scenes are worth seeing) so that you might be privy to some of the human indecency that your government does not care about. The plot is made up and foolish, the characters are 2 dimensional and booring, the director thought they weren’t (which makes it painful sometimes) and there is too much wasted time with the landscape. On the other hand, the backdrop in front of which this movie takes place is well worth learning something about.