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Film / Tears of the Sun

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"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 a 2003 American war film directed by Antoine Fuqua 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. The West African nation of Nigeria 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.

Not to be confused with the Emberverse book The Tears of the Sun.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The aftermath of the fight at the village.
  • America Saves the Day: The American Navy SEALs are the ones who end up rescuing Dr Kendricks and several Nigerian refugees while also fighting off hostile rebels.
  • Badass Army: The SEALs, who are an order of magnitude more deadly than any other combatant in the film. When they decide to clear the village in the second act, they switch to suppressed pistols, enter without any intel on the enemy forces, and clear the entire village in less than 5 minutes. When they have to fight in the third act, they inflict disproportionate casualties on their attackers.
  • Badass Bystander: The refugees who take up arms to both defend themselves and aid the SEAL team, especially the village and the finale.
  • Battle in the Rain: The Village incursion.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Dr. Kendricks endangers the whole mission by willfully withholding information.
  • 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, (including 4 of the S.E.A.L.s, Slo, Lake, Flea, and Silk.) and Nigeria is still under the control of genocidal thugs.
  • Breast Attack: A horrible, stomach-turning example shows up in the village massacre sequence, when the team stumbles across a woman bleeding to death after a rebel cut off both her breasts (explained as a common practice to prevent mothers, should they survive, from feeding their babies). Zee is so horrified and enraged that he forces the culprit to look her in the eyes before Zee pulls his knife and stabs the young militiaman while making sure he dies as painfully as possible.
  • Cat Scare: Or boar in this case.
  • Child Soldiers: One of the soldiers participating in the massacre at the village is one. Lake (who shot him) is deeply rattled.
  • Cool Guns: Let's see: M4A1, M249 SAW, M60E4, HK MK23 and a Sig Sauer P226.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Arthur is sobbing during a firefight after his bodyguard, who he was attached to, gets killed. Waters has no time for this and tells him to just man up and get his people to safety. It works.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The "Sun" in Tears of the Sun could also be taken to mean the Nigerian president's son, the sole survivor of his family.
  • Escort Mission: The entire movie revolves around the SEAL team's attempt to escort civilians out of hostile territory.
  • 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.
  • Friendly Sniper: Both "Flea" and "Silk" can be considered this. Despite using an M4 and M14 as their main weapons. Flea takes the cake on this one, as he is the first member of the team to share his MREs with the villagers.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Played straight and averted, specially in the aftermath of the fight at the village, with the dying female villager.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: General Mustafa Yakubu, the dictator who has taken over Nigeria and whose only scene in the movie is in the Director’s Cut.
  • The Heavy: Colonel Idris Sadick.
  • Hold the Line: Lt. Waters' team attempts this at the climax of the film, desperately trying to buy time for the refugees to reach safety in Cameroon, Lt. Waters even invoking the trope by name when he and the other SEALs make their last stand.
  • 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 
    • Most prominently, in the final battle, the outnumbered SEALs are correctly performing the center peel, Kiting retreating while performing suppressing fire.
    • The final airstrike is a confusing, very Hollywood mess as the air support preforms an attack at ridiculously low level with some sort of cluster napalm missile that was never loaded in the first place.
  • 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. Realistically, he's probably a Lieutenant Commander, in which case calling him a Lieutenant is an insult.
    • Another possibility is that Waters is a prior enlisted sailor who earned an officer’s commission later in his career. It’s possible Waters entered service as an enlisted man and spent many years enlisted before he met the criteria to become an officer (such as getting a college education and/or attaining enough commendations to warrant promotion to officer status). Or is could just be that the character was written to be younger than the actor playing him.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted. One fatally wounded soldier is able to run and fight for some time before he and his comrades realize he's even injured. He keels over and dies sometime later. 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.
  • 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.
  • Involuntary Dance: The rebels force some villagers dance at gunpoint.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: All the SEAL's eventually come around to wanting to help the refugees before the Final Battle. Except Lake, who when asked his opinion frankly admits the he sees none of this as his problem and does not want to die for the refugees he barely knows. All the other SEAL's who disagree with him seem to accept this as a perfectly valid viewpoint.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Waters, Red, Lake and Rhodes.
  • 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, then don't have anything.
    • The fighters then magically fire missiles at the ground...
    • which turn into cluster bombs...
    • which then become napalm? Somehow?
  • Kill It with Fire: F/A-18s fire some sort of very Hollywood air-to-air-missile/cluster missile/napalm thing on the rebels that were pursuing the team.
    • At least one person was immolated in the village, as Zee discovers.
  • King Incognito: 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 Load: Averted with the Refugees. Most of them take cover or hang back while the SEALs do the shooting. However, after the village massacre several of them pick up weapons, and during the final battle actually help the SEALs by providing covering fire for not just the team, but also the civilians trying to make a run for the refugee camp.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Waters, who knows that his orders only allow him to extract Kendricks, nonetheless lies to her, tells her that they're picking up all the refugees, and then leaves them all in a clearing with no hope of survival without remorse. He then experiences remorse.
  • Meaningful Name: LT A. K. Waters, alluding to the AK-47. At the beginning of the story, he's a weapon, being aimed by his commander. He gets better.
  • 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.
  • Names to Run Away From: Sadick, which looks awful close to Sadist.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: 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.
  • Not What I Signed on For: Notably, when Waters talks to his men about why he's been ignoring his orders and trying to save all the refugees, and tells them they're free to do what they want, Lake notes that they shouldn't be getting involved, that it's not their war and not their business...and then says "As far as me being in or out... you know the answer to that."
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The helicopters the carrier launches somehow arrive at the same time as the F-18s, despite the helicopters being unable to reach 200 miles an hour, while the fighters cruise at thrice the speed.
  • 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.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Doctor Kendrick lies to Lieutenant Waters about Arthur Azuka's presence in the refugee group after directly asked if she knows why the rebels would be tracking them. If she had told him to truth, the final battle and the casualties thereof probably could have been avoided because Waters would have immediately figured out the rebels will stop at nothing to hunt Arthur down and kept the group moving day and night. He rightfully calls her out on her lack of trust even after he has stuck his neck out and probably torpedoed his own career to help her.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: A lot, from the Rebels. All of it is graphic and disgusting.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: Lt. Waters and his team have been escorting a U.S. citizen, her staff, and other refugees to safety in war-torn Nigeria. A local militia has been so doggedly pursuing them for days on end that Waters eventually forces the refugees to reveal the truth: that one of them is actually the last survivor of a deposed royal house whom the militia wants to see dead.
  • 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.
  • Scary Black Man: The Rebel Colonel does a lot of evil glaring.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Played with. Turns out, they were easily being tracked thanks to a bug a refugee was carrying with him.
  • Scenery Porn: While filmed in the grimier parts of Hawaii (which strongly resemble southeast Nigeria), the scenery is so lush that it's a spectacle nonetheless.
  • 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.
  • Silent Antagonist: Sadick.
  • 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.
  • War Is Hell: Aside from the scenery, nothing about the journey to Cameroon is pretty, from infirm and amputated patients at the mission to hellish weather to constantly having to move because of enemy pursuit to an utterly reprehensible ethnic cleansing.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Did Sadick die in the air strike or did he flee during the final battle?
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Doctor Kendrick lays into Lieutenant Waters for tricking her into thinking he would save the refugees while really intending to abandon them at the last moment. Gets turned on its head later after Waters chooses to help her and she continues to mislead him about why the rebels would be hunting them.
  • 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.