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TEARS OF THE SUN , USA , 2003 , MPAA Rating : R for strong war violence, some brutality and language

TEARS OF THE SUN is a turgid exposition on the evils of ethnic cleansing, guerilla warfare, and casting Bruce Willis in an action flick. It is overwrought, underwritten and with glacial pace that makes for a piquant juxtaposition to its tropical Nigerian location. Once again Willis impresses mightily with his ability to be in virtually every shot of a film with a two-hour plus running time and never once move his facial muscles beyond what is absolutely necessary to speak. Though, since his voice never rises above a whisper, even while yelling orders in the heat of combat, you can imagine the kinetic energy required for even that.

The story is the usual Willis fare. Stalwart and laconic hero type saves innocent people right and left while never breaking a sweat. In this case, it's a winsomely lovely Italian doctor (Monica Belluci) doing good works in the outback of
Nigeria. The country is in chaos and the United States government is putting its vast military might well, a band of rangers anyway, behind getting her out, along with the priest and two nuns at the mission they run. She refuses to leave her staff of Nigerians behind. Willis tells her off, she tells him off, she slaps, she spits and the next thing you know, Brucey-boy is taking a motley crew of men and women on a seemingly endless trek through the jungles to Cameroon with the rebel guerillas hot on their trail and even hotter for their blood. At one point, one of his men asks why he disobeyed the mission's directives and Willis tells him he hasn't figured that out yet. I can. It's an action flick and following orders would mean no film. Duh.

En route to safety, Willis and his men discover an ethnic cleansing in progress and set about wiping out the cleansers while taking in the horror of what they were doing. I don't want to minimize the horrors of what happens in these situations, but writers Alex Lasko and Patrick Cirillo have given us a cliché-ridden by-the-book cavalcade that only reinforces the film's worst sin, making it plain from the first frame of film that the people living in Africa can't take care of themselves, hence their need to be rescued by Willis and company. Or, to put it more abstractly, the
First World must bear the burden of the Third on its back. The none too subtle subtext here of colonial-style condescension is irksome and not at all mitigated by the presence of an African-American among the commandos.

As for its sexual politics, let me put it this way, the winsome doctor, no doubt in reaction to the severe tropical heat, wears her shirt unbuttoned almost but not quite to the navel. She's a doctor, after all, not a hootchie, who would have liberated her navel. For logic, we have a magic moment where, as the refugees are fleeing in the jungle, they sing at the top of their lungs.  

Director Antoine Fuqua's (TRAINING DAY) deliberately slowness in unfolding the story builds neither tension, nor anticipation as this hearty band makes its way through the jungle. Instead, an oppressive ennui sets in early and becomes worse as events unfold. Hours are spent watching rain drip from leaves. Even the insert of the baboon shows it yawning fretfully in an attempt to pay attention. He also keeps the lighting low, even in the harsh African sun, perhaps thinking that if we can only hear the gunfire and explosions, somehow we will think that this is an exciting film.  

Alas, no such luck.

TEARS OF THE SUN will make you weep, but not for the reasons that filmmakers had hoped.

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Moviegoer Review
biafra (
Hmm, Nigeria>civil war>ethnic clensing>Cameroon border, hey people wake up! It looks like no one had done any home work here! The film is referring to the Biafra war in a confused clumsy way. It may be that since there is a strong US interest in the oil in that region the producers decideded to avoid more direct connection to it. It sad that no one has realized this and shows that reviewers are not aware of the history in the region. OK it happened most likekely before they were born (1967-1970), but it is no excuse, do a proper research before you write. It is so easy to Goggle this days. I happened to be in the northern part Nigeria for the first half of this war and I was a teen, but remember well the political propaganda went on there as well as some of the ethnic clensing. I almost forgot all of this and have to thank the producers of this film to remind me and hopefully many others.
Cupcakes (
Great movie. Very authentic and well written. It touches on the problem of ethnic cleansing in Africa without pointing fingers at any particular group (the bad guys are refered to as Rebels). A standout performance by the most underrated actor in Hollywood, Mr Bruce Willis.

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