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Rediff.com  » Movies » Tears Of The Sun disappoints

Tears Of The Sun disappoints

March 08, 2003 13:45 IST
A still from Tears Of The SunTwo years ago, director Antoine Fuqua made Training Day, a chilling, political film on police corruption. Now, he has made yet another political film, Tears Of The Sun, that might just make George W Bush's day.

As the film ends, a refugee in Nigeria tells her white rescuers that she and her folks will never forget them. Is there a better way to thank the Americans? Could the Afghans (and perhaps Iraqis) be saying the same thing in real life?

The new film, starring Bruce Willis, could please those who were afraid to go anywhere near The Quiet American because it is perceived to be anti-American. Despite getting some of the best reviews last year and a Best Actor nomination for Michael Caine, The Quiet American, based on a pulse-quickening, soul-searching novel of the same title by Graham Greene is fading, its eyes set on a modest $10 million gross.

Expect Tears Of The Sun to make twice that amount in just about three days.

Never mind the ideological differences between the two films; notice how well director Philip Noyce (the same man who made gripping but right-wing Patriot Games) handles The Quiet American. The film, which about American involvement in Vietnam, has many luminous performances. The most astounding is from veteran Michael Caine, whose soul is as ravaged like the Vietnam countryside.

Now watch how Fuqua, who is working here on a far bigger budget he had for Training Day (made at about $50 million), has made a loud, over-sentimental and over-the-top film celebrating American heroism. It is not even an edge-of-the-seat war thriller.

Those who admired Black Hawk Down, even while criticising it for its overtly simplistic depiction of Americans playing policemen in Somalia, would want to stay away from Tears Of The Sun, an over-simplified and mostly dull movie. Both films were produced by Revolution Studios and were distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment. While Black Hawk Down collected some $110 million in America and $60 million abroad, trade publications predict a medium range gross (say $80 million) in America for the new, often crude film.

Monica Belluci in Tears Of The SunTo be fair, the film has many tautly directed action sequences and a certain amount of suspense. But it is filled with pedestrian performances, mostly one-dimensional characters and is overtly self-congratulatory. There is no real passion here and the emotions are never subtle or deep. The film was shot in Hawaii with dozens of Africans, some from refugee camps, flown in to appear in small roles and in the crowd scenes.

Willis, who hasn't had a hit in over four years and whose Hart's War lost over $40 million last year, plays Navy Seal Lieutenant A K Waters who arrives in war-ravaged Nigeria to rescue a doctor (Monica Belluci). Her husband has been killed by the rebels, who have also assassinated the country's democratically elected leader. A member of Doctors without Borders, she is working for a Catholic mission in a village.

At first, Waters seems solely interested in carrying out his orders.

But she insists he also save dozens of villagers who will be slaughtered if left behind unprotected. Waters initially ignores her plea, but when he starts to fly her to safety, he witnesses horrendous brutality. He changes his mind, defies the orders of his superior and plunges into a rescue mission.

Predictably, he finds the task even more complicated than he had imagined. He and his men, conscience-stricken and compassionate, have to fight battles on many fronts and confront challenges and problems at every turn.

A still from Tears Of The SunThe film's weakest part is that it does not detail how the stoic Waters begins to change. Willis, who seems to underplay the part, does not internalise like Jack Nicholson did in his magnificent performance in About Schmidt.

Critics of the new film will certainly argue how America and the West looked away during the slaughter of the innocents in Biafra by the Nigerian Army over three decades ago. How, in the past decade, the butchery in Rwanda was ignored. And how half-heartedly and clumsily the West handled the Somalian crisis.

But even those who like the film's ideological direction would wish it had more passion and pulsating moments, not to forget penetrating performances.

Arthur J Pais