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Film: Tears of the Sun

Tears of the Sun is a film constructed out of rain, cinematography and the face of Bruce Willis. These materials are sufficient to build a film almost as good as if there had been a better screenplay.

Tears of the Sun is an 2003 American war film, depicting a United States Navy SEAL team rescue mission amidst a civil war in the West African country of Nigeria. Lt. A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis) commands the team sent to rescue U.S. citizen Dr. Lena Fiore Kendricks (Monica Bellucci) from the civil war en route to her jungle hospital.

Lt. A.K. Waters is a veteran Navy SEAL whose commander has given his team a special assignment. A Central African nation is expected to explode into war at any moment, and Waters and his cohorts are to escort any American citizens in the area to safety, most notably Dr. Lena Kendricks, a doctor from the United States who has set up a clinic in the jungle. Waters and his men find Kendricks, but she refuses to leave with them unless she can bring along 70 refugees who have been left to her care. Kendricks makes it clear that if they are left behind, the refugees will face certain death, but Waters's C.O. insists he bring back Kendricks — but not her patients. Forced by his conscience to disobey orders, Waters and his team race against time to escort the refugees to a border town where they will find safe haven before invading troops can ambush them.

It received a mixed critical reception, and is generally regarded by most critics as a workaday action movie with very little outstanding quality. Some disagree, however, and Roger Ebert gave it three stars out of four, saying that is basically a very good and thoughtful war movie hidden inside a good and mindless war movie.


This film provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The aftermath of the fight at the village.
  • America Saves the Day: A beef many critics had with the film. Which is ironic since the last thing the US wanted to do, in the film, was to be officially and directly involved.
    • Considering how omnipresent this trope is, it is baffling critics would single out such a subtle representation.
  • Battle in the Rain: The Village incursion.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Lt. A.K. Waters said that he can't even remember the last time he did the right thing.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Dr. Kendricks cursing in Italian while arguing with Lt. Waters.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kendricks, Azuka and many other refugees make it to Cameroon, along with Waters, Zee, Red and Doc, but many more died on the way, and Nigeria is still under the control of genocidal thugs.
  • Cat Scare: or boar in this case.
  • Child Soldiers: One of the soldiers participating in the massacre at the village is one. Mohawk (who shot him) is deeply rattled.
  • Choosing Death: The missionaries working with Dr. Hendricks refuse to abandon the sick and wounded in their field hospital, staying with them despite knowing full well that they will all be butchered once the rebels close in on the camp.
  • Cool Guns: Let's see: M4A1, M249 SAW, M60E4, HK MK23 and a Sig Sauer P226.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Navy SEALs.
  • Empathic Environment: Played with. When they killed the priest at the refugee camp, the jungle animals react to it, and the soldiers do seem to notice the change in behavior.
    Doc: "What the fuck was that?"
  • Epigraph: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
  • Five-Man Band: Way more than five actually.
  • Friendly Sniper: Both "Flea" and "Silk" can be considered this. Despite using an M4 and M14 as their main weapons.
  • Genre Savvy: The SEALs show signs of this. After learning that the rebels were able to track them across the jungle at night, they quickly deduce that someone is transmitting their location. They then wonder why someone would bother to do this. After learning that there is in fact a mole, they demand to know why someone would care that much about a group of refugees.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Played straight and averted, specially in the aftermath of the fight at the village, with the dying female villager.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Wait, was John McClain just betrayed by the Haitian?
  • Hollywood Tactics: Played straight and averted from scene to scene. The SEALs do correctly (and instantly) charge the ambush they get caught in, though.note 
  • Hospital Hottie: Well, Dr. Kendricks is played by Monica Bellucci.
  • Improbable Age: Inverted. Someone as old as Waters should not be a Lieutenant, he should be in a command post or out of the service.
    • Justified however as Waters could be a Mustang, having first enlisted in the Navy, and was commissioned as an officer sometime later (likely sometime before his SEAL training). Also, in the US Navy, the rank of "Lieutenant" is equivalent to the rank of "Captain" in the US Air Force or Army (O-3)
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. Twice.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted. One fatally wounded soldier is able to run and fight for some time before he and his comrades realize. Another sequence has a soldier taking a sniper bullet through the shoulder and falling down. After a few tense seconds, it's revealed that he dropped down to avoid getting hit by another bullet (he was in tall grass), and after getting patched up, he picks up his gun and continues fighting. He still dies, but takes a few more bullets to do so.
    • In fact of the soldiers who do die, most are shot several times before doing so. The other may have only been hit once, in the stomach, but it took awhile for him to die. Most of the survivors have been shot as well.
  • Insult Backfire: Waters to Kendricks, after he finds out she's been withholding information all along.
    Waters: You knew about this? You knew all the time, and you didn't tell me.
    Kendricks: I didn't trust you... at the time.
    Waters: I wonder what it takes to earn your trust.
    • Should be noted that by that point, Waters has saved Kendrick's life, openly risked his career to take the refugees to the border and the life of the men under him, and engaged in unlawful combat to stop the massacre at a village.
  • Just Plane Wrong: The F-18s are launched off the carrier in slick configuration (no suspended weapons or equipment); the next shot shows them with wing tanks; then they are shown with a full weapons load-out. -
    • In-flight ordnance crews armed the aircraft after take-off!
    • Then they show the pilots using their HUDs to lock on to enemy combatants (which cannot be done even with the most sophisticated targeting systems)
    • Then they show the planes firing their wingtip AIM-120 (air to air) missiles at the ground.
  • Kill It with Fire: F/A-18s dropping bombs on the rebels that were pursuing the team.
    • At least one person was immolated in the village, as Zee discovers.
  • Last of His Kind: Played with. Arthur Azuka, the surviving son of deposed Nigerian President Samuel Azuka, and also a de facto tribal leader, is amongst the refugees, and the main reason the whole party is being hunted in the first place.
  • The Medic: Both Dr. Kendricks and "Doc" Kelley, the squad's corpsman.
  • The Mole: One of the refugees. Granted, he was being blackmailed.
  • More Dakka: The Rebels.
  • Not So Different: Dialogue in the opening to the Director's Cut suggests that while the rebels are clearly monsters, President Azuka might not be that much better.
    President Azuka: Children are innocent!
    Terwase: Innocent? They are no more innocent than the thousands your army killed and displaced. Those thousands had brothers, sons. We have come back for justice.
    President Azuka: You know nothing of justice.
    Terwase: I remember your justice.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: Very cleverly and shockingly done when the team has to clear a village in which the enemy troops are massacring and raping the inhabitants. This is probably the goriest and yet best sequence in the film.
  • Oh Crap: The rebel colonel as he's about to be consumed by the fire.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Inverted. When the F/A-18s are coming in for a bombing run the survivors have to scream for Red to hurry and make it out of the blast zone, as he won't be able to outrun the fireball.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: A lot, from the Rebels. All of it is graphic and disgusting.
  • Redemption Quest:
    Zee: For all the years that we were told to stand down and to stand by, you're doing the right thing.
    L.T.: For our sins.
    Both: Hooyah.
  • Red Herring Mole: Arthur Azuka.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Played with. Turns out, they were easily being tracked thanks to a bug a refugee was carrying with him.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Originally, Waters and his squad were against helping the refugees, but after seeing the atrocities of the civil war, they decide to help the refugees get to a safe zone.
    Zee: Sir, the rules of engagement-
    Waters: We're already engaged.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Everyone after witnessing, and trying to stop the massacre at the village.
  • Shown Their Work: Both times Waters' squad uses smoke grenades for air support, the pilots state the color of the smoke which the team then confirms. This is done to make sure that air support doesn't respond to the wrong thing.
    • Also, the way they perform the Center Peel is textbook.
  • The Squad: Waters' Navy SEAL Team.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The crying newborn sound effect, used for a 3-4 year old kid. Made even more jarring by having it start playing and the kid is not even opening its mouth.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: One of Waters' team gets killed trying to get a refugee to run because she's been hiding behind a log the entire fight. When he finally gets her to move she only makes it a few steps before getting shot.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dr. Kendricks, she endangers the whole mission by willfully withholding information. She survives though.
  • White Man's Burden: Only if you're really cynical, specially regarding the message of the movie, which was basically "Just be human and do the right thing if you have the power to do so", rather than America having to shoulder responsibility for everyone around the world and save them from themselves, which is what detractors of movie feel this was about.


Maid In ManhattanCreator/Revolution StudiosAnger Management
A Tale of Two SistersFilms of 2000 - 2004 13

alternative title(s): Tears Of The Sun
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