Tears of the Sun

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So bad I thought I would cry...

Jun 4, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Palatable action sequences.

Cons:Horrid script and acting. Beats the "noble savage" concept into the ground. Monica Belucci's character.

The Bottom Line: A dreadful script, annoying characters, and glaring flaws in believability make this movie a complete waste of time.


I bought this DVD in Hong Kong and only paid a dollar for it. I regret the decision. This movie stank. It stank big time. Not only was the script just plain awful, but horrible acting, annoying characters, and the insulting concept of the "noble savage" tested my gag reflex throughout. If this movie was supposed to improve my opinion of NGO's or make me feel more compelled to support US intervention in 3rd world scumpits, it fell sorely short.

I am by no means an cinema afficiando, and when it comes to movies I prefer them with lots of plausible action and boom booms. I had hoped "Tears of the Sun" would fall into this genre. I will give away major details about the plot as you won't want to see this stinkball, anyway. By the way, the acronym NGO stands for non-governmental organization and refers to the numerous self-promoting and self-righteous organizations that always rush into combat areas and begin the endless finger-pointing.

PLOT:
Horrible. It tries to build upon the concept of "Saving Private Ryan" by forcing us to question the value of individual lives during wartime. In this movie the question seems to be: are the lives of the SEAL team worth the life of a few refugees or one annoying NGO physician?

While I have no problem with a movie that attempts to humanize aspects of warfare, one has to remember that the audience has to sympathize with the characters. Monica Belucci's character is so annoying, that I developed an intense hope that she'd die in the end. The plight of the refugees is diminished by the insulting concept of "the noble savage" being shoved down my throat at every possible opportunity. Additionally, the refugee characters are so bland and under-developed, that they seldom form anything more effective than being an ethnic window dressing for the torn consciences of our main players.

Who wrote this thing anyway? The synopsis sounds good enough: a SEAL team is ordered to rescue an NGO physician before rebel Nigerian forces destroy her hospital. Along the way, the SEAL commander (played by Willis) violates his orders and decides to defend a group of refugees who are being pursued by the rebel army.

Fine time for a crisis of conscience, but I found Willis was unable to convince me of any internal conflict. I suppose that's how a tough old SEAL would react when faced with any moral dilemma, however. One has to remember a couple of things. First, SEAL's don't rescue hostages or embark on lengthy land missions. Second SEAL's aren't stupid enough to violate orders.

CHARACTERS:
Bruce Willis does a pasable job as Lt. Waters, the SEAL team leader. He plays the role nicely for the first third of the movie, and his character is easy to believe as the stone-faced professional man of few words. When he violates his orders, his character becomes less credible and I just wasn't able to identify with him afterwards.

Monica Belucci was poorly cast and her dialog was even worse. First, no doctor (NGO or otherwise) is so stupid as to stick around in a combat zone when there's a genuine danger of mutilation by machete. While most NGO personnel are self-promoting in the extreme sense, their bleeding hearts are only of the literal sense, and none of them would willingly become a martyr before penning a book, or usurping some form of power from legitimate powers of reconstruction or order.

Second, nobody in a combat zone has the seemingly endless supply of lipstick that this woman possessed. Her pouty lips were poor compensation for a character that was a shrill, whiny, and ultimately stupid person. Her total lack of common sense makes me wonder if this supposedly talented surgeon was, in fact, an idiot savant. She's the Forrest Gump of Nigeria, blithely alternating between whiny pestering sermons to the SEALs, to whiny self-righteous rants about the value of human life...blah blah blah. Her acting is terrible to boot, and I kept flashing back to the overzealous Dr. McCoy of Star Trek--"Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a gunslinger!"

I was secretly hoping that the Belucci character would get shot in the hail of bullets in the films "climactic" battle scene--alas.

The refugees, as I said before, lack any kind of depth. The writers attempt to humanize them and build sympathy for their plight by forcing several grotesque scenes of rape, ethnic cleansing, and mutilation upon us. However, the concept of the noble savage is more overdone than a burger during an E. Coli outbreak. If I had to stomach another scene of the tearful "savage" vowing to rebuild his country, or a scene of the tearful "savage" lamenting his paradise lost, or a scene of tearful "savages" dancing and hootin' and hollerin' in celebration, I think I would have spewed dayglow. Somehow, all of Hollywood seems to equate anyone outside of the Western sphere of influence as a grubby unwashed American, just waiting to be cleansed and educated in the modern ways. Holy cow, Kemo Sabe, didn't any of these guys realize that Nigerians actually have this strange thing called an education? I trained with a lot of talented physicians from Nigeria, and contrary to how this movie portrays them, they weren't all dressed like Zulu Impis, fearing the strange Western ways.

I failed to develop any type of connection or sympathy for these folks, even after I had to watch the rebel forces rape, murder, and mutilate several individuals.

ACTION:
Good action sequences, but they totally lacked any type of believability. Hollywood seems to be stuck on the concept that all American troops are bulletproof and able to slay 100 times their number. In reality this is just not true, of course. While there is great action and lots of boom boom in this movie, I found the scenes where the SEALs killed by stealth, much more fun to watch. Watching eight SEALS stand in an open field while being fired upon by hundreds of enemy troops just made me laugh. SEALs are reknowned for their stealth and strategy, and facing off European-style on the open field of battle is just plain stupid. Do the math. If your army fires thousands of bullets plus artillery at eight men that can only fire dozens in the same time-frame, it don't matter how bad of a shot you ultimately are in the final analysis.

TECHNICAL DETAILS:
Very nice scenery and locations. It kept bringing this quote to my head from an anonymous US helicopter pilot during the wars of IndoChina. "Before the fall of Sihanouk, Cambodia was the last paradise...the last paradise." The beauty of the scenery was a great contrast to the egregious bloodletting, and everyone knows that red and green are exact opposite matches on the color chart.

The SEAL gear and operating procedures were pretty good too, although I did read another review that pointed out some fantastic technical faults that only the most observant and knowledgeable viewer could pick up on.

There are plenty of obligatory beauty shots of US aircraft flying missions, and lots of Willis' stony face glaring into the jungle or glaring at Belucci.

OVERALL:
A dreadful script, annoying characters, and glaring flaws in believability make this movie a complete waste of time.


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