Directed by Antoine Fuqua, starring Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Eamonn Walker, Johnny Messner, Nick Chinlund, Paul Francis, Chad Smith, Jason Mabry, Charles Ingram and Tom Skerritt.
As the government in Nigeria is overthrown, a US Navy SEAL unit is sent in to evacuate American citizen Lena Kendricks (Bellucci) from a remote Catholic mission where she works as a doctor. Led by Lieutenant AK Waters (Willis), the eight-strong team (including Hauser, Walker and Messner) find that their arrival at the outpost is met with instant disdain by the person they're supposed to rescue.
A US citizen only by marriage, Kendricks refuses to leave her patients at the mercy of the new regime's army and insists the SEALS bring the refugees to safety. Waters tricks her into believing he will - planning all the time to leave the stragglers when they reach the helicopters. But when he and his men see genocide close-up, they decide to help Kendricks get her people to neighbouring Cameroon.
Made with "the full co-operation and endorsement of the US Navy and Department of Defence", 'Tears of the Sun' offers a heroism high on condition that you can ditch disbelief ASAP. Would a Waters and his battle-hardened group really disobey direct orders? Would one of his men not then relieve him of command? Would they not be conditioned to filter out the human toll?
Put those questions away and what you've got is a so-so war movie that owes much to the likes of 'Saving Private Ryan', 'The Dogs of War' and 'The Wild Geese', but which is convinced it has far more depth than is the reality.
For Willis, it's an ok role and he brings a taciturn magnetism to screen as the soldier who wakes up to his conscience. His performance, however, loses the power to have meaningful impact because Bellucci's character is so under-developed. Forced to wander around the jungle as if she's been sent over from the set of a deodorant ad, the Italian gets little in the way of decent lines, resulting in a character that can't even cut it as romantic interest.
'Training Day' director Fuqua and the scriptwriters deserve praise for basing their story in an actual country - as opposed to taking the 'A-Team's way out and just inventing one - with some of the horrors Waters and his men come across chillingly effective. It's a sense of reality that gets lost, though, as the film moves towards the close. There's a twist that explains just why the SEALS and their charges are being tailed by an entire regiment and what follows is a battle sequence, which says eight men running backwards can hold off 10 times their number.
There was a point midway through 'Tears of the Sun' where you felt there was enough fatalism about Willis' character that his good deed wouldn't go unpunished. Sadly, the film ends exactly as you would expect with the US saving the day, survivors gurning and cheering, Bellucci looking sweaty and Burke's quote about evil and good men doing nothing flashed onscreen.
An easy way out and a missed opportunity.