Tears of the Sun
Production Company: Revolution Studios
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Principals: Bruce Willlis, Monica Bellucci, Tom Skeritt
Rating: R (wartime violence, rough language)
By Mardon and Lynne DeMichele
A Navy S.E.A.L. unit, led by Lt. A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis), parachutes into the African jungle to rescue a Doctors Without Borders physician, Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci), and possibly a priest and two Irish nuns from a missionary compound in the country’s interior. This fictional war takes place in Nigeria after a coup has destroyed the democratically elected government, leaving a ruthless dictator in charge. The viciousness of the rebel militia in their "cleansing" of all those on the wrong side of the new ethnic/tribal divide is widely known. The
priest and nuns insist on staying. "God go with you," says the priest as Waters leaves. "God already left Africa," he replies.
|Lt. Waters (Willis) questions his conscience as he and Dr. Kendricks Bellucci) watch the helpless refugees from his 'copter. Photo © Copyright Revolution Studios|
Dr. Kendricks also refuses to leave without "her people," but she is an American and the object of Waters’ "extraction mission." Though he humors her by allowing some of the refugees to accompany the party to the rescue location, his intention is to follow orders and leave her charges behind at the last minute. Then, looking down from the open door of the rescue helicopter, he sees the abandoned refugees huddled helplessly and immobilized by terror as the rebels begin to close in on them.
The classic conflict between following orders, versus following one’s conscience stops the grizzled soldier in his flight. Mumbling something about doing a good
thing, the right thing, the veteran officer puts his entire unit at risk by ordering the ‘copter to return for the refugee children, he then stays behind with Kendricks to lead the others through the jungle to the border and safety. Asked by one of his men why he's doing this, Waters can only reply, "When I figure that out, I'll let you know."
|The grizzled soldier stays behind, placing his unit in harm, to save the refugee children. Photo © Copyright Revolution Studios|
While the film (shot in the Hawaiian Islands) is grim in its literal interpretation of the current situation, it is restrained in its depiction of violence. Many scenes were shot in low light, muting the horror. Still, scenes of a village’s destruction, and the mutilation by machete of several child soldiers present a nightmarish montage of recent real-world African atrocities. It evokes recent wars in Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan. Young actors from those same African countries lend authenticity to the movie, some only weeks removed from their own harrowing experience in Africa.
|Superior officer, Capt. Bill Rhodes (Tom Skeritt) communicating from an aircraft carrier off shore tries to halt Waters' breach of orders. Photo © Copyright Revolution Studios|
At one critical point in the film, one of Waters' men, (Eamonn Walker) who is African-American, declares, '"These are my people, too,'" and urges his commander to persevere in their new, unauthorized mission. The film’s director, Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) also African American, is clearly moved and motivated by the plight of so many in war-torn Africa. In a National Public Radio interview, Fuqua states that he wanted to make this film because of the atrocities that occur in these small, remote areas, and because of the heroism and uncommon courage of the Navy SEALS charged with going into these horrific areas. Yet, he emphasized that the film should not be interpreted as pro-war. "It's really about man's inhumanity to man". the simple point of the story, is to try to help."
Mardon DeMichele has been a filmmaker, professor and on-air critic. Lynne DeMichele is a professional writer, editor and former director of communications for the Indiana Area United Methodist Church.