Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tears of the Sun

When this movie was initially released, it received negative reviews, based mainly on the fact that its star and producer were Bruce Willis, and that it focused on fictional atrocities in a real country.

I rented it partly because IMDB had some good reviews, and because it is available in Blu-ray format. And I'm really glad I did.

Bruce Willis plays Navy SEAL Special-Ops commander Lieutenant A.K. Waters who takes his squad into the African jungle to rescue Dr. Lena Fiore Kendricks (played sensitively and convincingly by Monica Belluci) from a missionary hospital about to be attacked by the soldiers of a tribal coup.

Ms Kendricks manages to convince Lieutenant Waters and his men to rescue not only her but 70 of the most able-bodied members of the hospital. This is the where the credibility of the plot is weakest, but after this the film goes from strength to strength, with some intriguing twists.

I make no claims to be any kind of expert on African politics. But I do know that there is a lot of very bad stuff happening there. Tears of the Sun manages to highlight the atrocities and some of the reasons behind them without ever caricaturing or glorifying them.

The SEALs play their parts well, with a convincing mix of professionalism and emotional involvement. The fight scenes are particularly well handled, with the true awe and horror of modern warfare being powerfully portrayed.

The escaping civilians are also excellently portrayed, displaying an affecting mixture of desperation, weariness, fear and bravery.

Even the denouement, often the weakest part of an action movie, is well handled. There is no triumphalism, only a sense of relief that some good has come out of an impossible situation mingled with deep sorrow for all the carnage that has preceded it.

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