Nestled snugly between the belligerent warmongering of We Were Soldiers and the apolitical pretense of Black Hawk Down, the new Bruce Willis vehicle Tears of the Sun is a startlingly active embrace of both liberal and conservative principles without the cleverness or the gumption to effectively acknowledge either one. On the left hand, this is a film that demands it is only right and proper for America to give aid to as many unfortunate souls as possible, no matter what the cost; the movie’s pathetic attempts at quiet dignity—pained expressions, gruff dialogue and lots of silence, mostly translating as an extreme lack of character development—are about as subtle as your average feed-the-starving-children infomercial. To this effect there are plenty of appropriately wide-eyed and gaunt Africans on hand to gaze admiringly upon Lt. Waters (Willis) and his band of merry men as they sneak into Nigeria to rescue an American doctor (Irreversible victim Monica Bellucci, taking more abuse while enforcing protocol that all compassionate third world missionary chicks must be way, way hot) trapped amid an escalating tribal coup. Only he with a heart of stone could not wish to assist these wretched beings in escaping tragedy, yet the film lacks the foresight to suggest what might happen to them once the soldiers depart. On the right hand, Tears of the Sun insists that helping the world’s poor and oppressed citizens starts not with a benevolent spirit, but with a machine gun. The only way for the Americans (who are nearly as faceless as the Nigerians they’re liberating) to do their duty as human beings is to equip their silencers and night vision goggles and intervene in a situation of ethnic cleansing. The film’s misguided polemic—to save a few people by annihilating many, many others—avoids frustration under the poker-faced gaze of Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, whose insistence on exploiting dark photography and macho posturing whenever possible drains away energy but preserves cliché. Several critics have already mentioned that Tears of the Sun is an imminent favorite at the White House screening room, but the film is ultimately so dry and remote that one can’t imagine Chaney or Ashcroft trooping through all the exposition and moral finagling to get to the carnage. The movie is ultimately Bruce’s requisite foray into bland warfare propaganda, following in Mel’s blood-soaked shoes; the real worry is that Arnie might be stumping for Dubya during the nuclear holocaust countdown of T3.
- Antoine Fuqua
- Alex Lasker, Patrick Cirillo
- Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Johnny Messner, Malick Bowens, Fionnula Flanagan, Tom Skerritt
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