Bruce Willis Goes Commando
"Tears of the Sun" is an interesting movie, or actually it should have been, it starts with a lot of promise that it could be something quite serious maybe along the lines of "The Killing Fields", but then soon falls into being a routine action movie, although a slightly moving one at that. Which to be honest should be no surprise as it stars Bruce Willis in the lead role and just short of a "Yippee Kay Aye" this could be called Die Hard Goes Commando. Not that I am knocking "Tears of the Sun" as it is what it is, a pretty decent and watch able action movie, lacking a really decent storyline but still managing to entertain from start to finish.
When the President of Nigeria is assassinated in a civil war, a crack team of Navy Seals lead by Lt. A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis - Hart's War) is sent in to evacuate Dr Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci - Malena) and her staff at a missionary deep in the war torn country. But what should have been a simple rescue mission turns into a lot more when Dr Kendricks refuses to abandon her patients in the middle of the jungle, especially with rebel troops closing in on them.
I mentioned that the storyline is pretty routine and in fact at times it felt remarkably similar to the classic "The Magnificent Seven". The good guys ride in, in this case it is a crack force of Navy Seals, paid to do a job but whilst in the process of carrying out their mission they become more involved with those who they are rescuing and it becomes more of a personal mission than just another job. There really is little more to the basic storyline than this, yes there are a couple of twists which actually help to make sense of a few sub plots but it is all very straight forwards and to be honest "Tears of the Sun" doesn't need to be any more complex.
What is surprising for such a simple movie is that there is a lot of tension mainly generated through the cat and mouse games as the rebel soldier's track down the navy seals, doctor and patients through the Nigerian jungles. I didn't expect so much tension and this is heightened by the lack of dialogue during much of the first half of "Tears of the Sun", it takes just a look from Willis to deliver a feeling which words can not express.
Also what is quite surprising is for such a simple storyline and basically an action movie to boot it does have depth as well. At times "Tears of the Sun" is quite moving especially when you witness the brutality of the rebel troops and the devastation they leave in their wake. In some hands this side of "Tears of the Sun" could have been over looked but hats off to director Antoine Fuqua for managing to combine these elements without it feeling out of place or over done. Don't get me wrong the emphasis of "Tears of the Sun" is firmly on action but there are scenes which take you by surprise.
But where I feel "Tears of the Sun" is severely let down is in the climatic action sequences, it all goes too Hollywood and over the top. Whilst I can understand delivering big action sequences is an obvious crowd pleaser, especially with one of Hollywood's biggest action stars, it seemed a huge cop out and by giving it a touch of reality would have definitely improved the whole feel of the movie. It is this ending which cheapens the hard work done to build tension in the earlier scenes and makes it even more "Die Hard" than ever.
The choice of Bruce Willis to be the lead role does turn out to be a master stroke as not only is he at his usual best during the action scenes he is equally good in the earlier sections of "Tears of the Sun" which required more skill as an actor. As already mentioned there are numerous scenes where Willis's character barely speaks but just the way he looks, the expression on his face delivers a lot more than many an actor could achieve. No, this is not Oscar winning acting but it is very good, and for a movie which in all honestly mainly revolves around his character he does a very good job. In fact although "Tears of the Sun" has some good performances from the likes of Monica Bellucci, Eamonn Walker and Cole Hauser the one true star of the movie is Bruce Willis.
What this all boils down to is that "Tears of the Sun" is a good but not great movie which although enjoyable to watch leaves you wondering how good it would have been if they kept to the earlier style and forfeited the over the top Hollywood ending for something more realistic. Unlike other war movies there are no real statements, yes at times it tries to deliver a message about the atrocity of war but never focuses solely on it to make it feel uncomfortable. But unlike many an action movie, "Tears of the Sun" delivers more than just set piece explosions and has a little more clout about it than you would probably expect.