I have returned! Great to be back everyone and I look forward to blogging for the next few weeks before another one week hiatus. I’m going to try and post something each day for the next week. Wish me luck!
For over a century, the United States practiced a foreign policy of isolationism, refusing to enter foreign conflicts, instead focusing on the happenings inside their own borders. That changed with World War I. The United States became involved with the foreign affairs of others, taking on a leadership position for the countries of the world who either could not defend themselves or had a dire need for economic assistance. Since World War I, the United States has entered many global conflicts, such as World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East. However, we have never given up the right to choose which conflicts we enter and which ones we don’t. We did not engage in the genocide of Darfur nor have we sent troops into Syria even after the UN confirmed chemical weapons were used.
The paragraph above is not what this movie is about so much as the scenario director Antoine Fuqua is trying to depict. A Navy SEAL team is ordered to go into a hostile war-torn Nigeria to rescue an American doctor, two nuns and a priest. Perhaps I’m being overly critical, but does this sound like a likely mission for a Navy SEAL team? It doesn’t to me. That’s not a big deal to me and to be honest, I think Fuqua meant to give us an improbable story because he wanted to show us his cards early so we could see the arguments and allusions being made here. If you look at it as a story and nothing more, you’ll drive into roadblocks but when you know this is a two-hour argument that’s displayed on the big screen, you’ll see the pieces that Fuqua is putting down clear as day. It’s contrived well but it’s not fogged or convoluted so you have to peel back the metaphorical veil to discover it. It’s on a platter and served up well-done.
Now, the arguments that Fuqua enlightens us with are ones we’ve heard in our history classes during high school. We know what they’re going to be, what the sides are, what the consequences of our actions will be, etc. We’ve heard the spiel before. Fuqua doesn’t have any reservations about that. He’s just going to give us that spiel whether we like it or not. To his credit, his spiel is a lot more embracing and thought-provoking then the spiel I heard in high school.
Bruce Willis plays the lieutenant of the SEAL team and I have to admit his performance is stone cold. That’s not a criticism but it’s not a compliment either. He and his squad are what you would expect from soldiers. It’s a mission, stay impersonal and withdrawn from the parties involved and get the job done. There are some changes in the people they are as the film progresses but they haven’t had epiphanies either. Some of them take definite stands on which side they’re on, side as in whether they support involvement or they don’t, but some take the middle-of-the-road fence position, embodying the position of the targeted audience for this film. Some people want America to be the world police and others would prefer it if the country reverted back to its position of isolationism. Fuqua’s saying, “if you’ve made your mind up, that’s fine, but watch this and see if you still feel the same way.”
Fuqua tries to remain unbiased in his directing but struggles to do so considering the material he’s dealing with, which in my opinion is understandable. Unarmed citizens are being slaughtered by militant Muslims. It’s hard to direct something like that and tell the actors, “act as unemotionally attached to the material as possible, borderline inhumane.”
Willis is the Hollywood star but isn’t doing any wholesome acting here. It’s more about the facial expressions than anything else. There’s not a lot of dialogue streaming through him, suggesting he’s more of an accessory to the story than its most memorable member. Aside from the decisions he makes, there’s nothing to give us any aspirations to his character, leading me to believe a lesser actor would have sufficed for the role in question. Monica Bellucci plays the doctor who refuses to leave her patients and the effort is there but the product is not. She’s incredibly blase and the script does nothing to draw my attention to anything she’s involved with, including the attempt at a budding romance between her and Willis’ Lieutenant Waters, a romance that seems doomed from the start and all too predictable.
The action isn’t as prevalent as you would expect from a war film but what is given to us is admirable. The film lends itself to a slower pace to establish the darker aspects of warfare and genocide, aspects that are much harder to paint in a film than in a novel but succeed at a high rate here.
Despite the unripe fruit of our two leading stars, the rest of the supporting cast is solid at pushing Fuqua’s arguments forward and developing the film’s apathy and emotional platforms.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Edge of Tomorrow, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Young Guns, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Spider-Man 3)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Starving Games, You’re Next, Thor, Full Metal Jacket, Alien Resurrection)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Billy Madison, A Haunted House, 300: Rise of an Empire, Cowboys and Aliens, Serendipity)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Stonados, Redemption, Pride and Prejudice, The Contract)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (A Haunted House 2, Open Grave, Alien 3, Dark Fury, Midnight Cowboy)
My score for Tears of the Sun: 83.
Fuqua’s history spiel has its touching moments, hardcore realism, and military camaraderie illustrated to a high degree. Fuqua’s film approaches the division of feature film and documentary as close as he can without crossing it, drawing us a war-torn country scenario and stirring questions along the way. Where Tears of the Sun struggles is in the writing of its leads, which took a back seat to everything else this film had to offer.