Movie Review by Reece De Ville
Starring: Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Fionnula Flanagan, Johnny Messner
Director: Antoine Fuqua
There’s an unwritten rule of Bruce Willis films: shaved head = serious and worthy; full head of hair (ok, thinning thatch in dear Bruce’s case) = cheeky, charming, ass-kicker Bruce. TEARS OF THE SUN’s tone is set right from the outset with Bruce emerging shorn and moody from a helicopter gunship – get ready for Willis sans wisecracks.
Unusually for a film of this ilk, TEARS OF THE SUN isn’t based on a true story. Sure, the tale of Navy S.E.A.L.S rescuing important VIP’s and a gaggle of faceless refugees could have been taken from numerous news reports of the last 20 years, but the origins of this script are perhaps the most intriguing thing about it. TEARS OF THE SUN started life as a possible treatment for DIE HARD 4 (remember: thinning thatch = ass kicking Bruce) and contains many of the elements that could have provided another John McClane actioner – sneering villains, a damsel in distress etc. However, it’s fairly obvious that the S.E.A.L’s characters have been re-written to be more sympathetic along with the role of the ‘evil’ militia General being significantly (what appears to be) cut out from the picture.
The first hour works fairly well in establishing the horrific situation in Nigeria, yet Fuqua decides to inject a dollop of syrup into the proceedings with a totally unnecessary group ‘bonding’ session amongst Bruce’s S.E.A.L’s – ‘I’m with you man…sniff…’ ‘Lets get those refugees to safety…sniff…’ and perhaps the most horrendous comment ‘I’m Black, these are my people too’. Why oh why?? Even the fire fight at the close of the film seems tacked on, just to prove that Bruce and co have the machismo missing from the earlier part of the film due to silly things like plot and character development. Oh and tension. And story. Damn that intelligent scriptwriter. You can almost hear the production team now ‘Man, we’ve definitely got those guys who dug SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and all that sentimental stuff, but what about the MISSING IN ACTION demographic? Hey, big fire fight!! Yeah!’
TEARS OF THE SUN isn’t totally without merit, with its excellent cinematography and, in parts, stunning sound design. Yet, the reliance on the ‘Hollywood heroes ending’ completely scuppers a subtle and tense picture that may have had some important points to make if you could see through the golden syrupy glow. It really is a tale of two films, with the nagging feeling emerging that the script wasn’t finished – particularly with the original intentions of the story in mind (though how McClane finds himself in the jungle we’ll probably never know – and he sticks out like a sore thumb in that white vest of his).
For TEARS OF THE SUN, see WE WERE SOLDIERS, PLATOON and TOP GUN (damnit, even Tom Skerritt is here barking orders from an aircraft carrier!!!). Mix them up and serve with a Willis garnish.