Please note, this is A favorite movie, not my all time favorite. That would be just too hard to narrow down. But this does figure into my top five, for sure.
My pick for this post is simple. It’s heroic…even epic. This is an amazing tale of courage, honor, and compassion. Of brotherhood, love, sacrifice, and integrity. Of violence, and corruption.
It’s a story of war.
This is TEARS OF THE SUN.
Starring Bruce Willis as Lt. A.K. Waters, the film is about a Navy Seals Team that goes into Nigeria (experiencing civil war/military coup/genocide) to rescue a handful of American Citizens at a Catholic Mission deep in the jungle….among them a Doctor Lena Kendricks (played by Monica Bellucci). When she refuses to abandon the 70 odd workers/families/patients (most of whom are native Christians) there in the face of the oncoming Nigerian rebels, the team is faced with extracting all who are willing and able to leave.
I loved this film for a variety of reasons, not the least of those being the fact that while this is very much a ‘war’ movie, there is a good plot, nice character development (uncommon in action/war flicks), and a moral ground/message.
In addition, the cinematography was amazing. I mean, really outstanding. This film sparked an interest in me, for the first time ever, in Africa-Nigeria specifically. The country is gorgeous (granted, some of this movie was filmed in Hawaii), and the people (those portrayed in the film) stole my heart. Patience (Akosua Busia) is one of these people, and her friendship with Lena and her unwavering faith in God and His ways is a precious thing to behold. Her daughter, Amaka (played by Akosua’s actual daughter), is so adorable; and Patience’s husband, Musa (played by Awaoviey Agie), is a brave and honest man.
The Seals Team was incredibly cool, too. Not because they were warriors, braving unspeakable horrors (though that definitely adds to it), but because they were men. As I said, there was character development. You get to see who these guys really are, deep down. You get to see them go from men who are just following orders, to men who believe in a mission. One way or another, they become invested in the lives of the Nigerian refugees.
Ellis ‘Zee’ Pettigrew (portrayed by Eamonn Walker) is second in command (as far as I can tell, now, I’m not up to speed with all that military jazz, so it’s entirely possible I’m wrong on this). He is a pretty quiet, silent type of man, much like the character of Waters. But Zee seems to know what his LT is thinking even before Waters does…he very nearly is Lt Waters conscience. He backs Waters 100%, never questioning, but fully assured that the LT has a reason for whatever he does. If I were to pick out friendships that ran deeper than what is already there between them all, I would wager that A.K. and Zee have a very close one…you know, if they needed to call a friend up back state way, they’d have each other listed as #1 on their speed dials.
If Zee isn’t second in command, then that’s gotta be James ‘Red’ Atkins (Cole Hauser). This guy is outstanding. He has questions, probably a million raging through his head in any given second, even going so far as to seek out and question A.K. privately…but still he follows his leader, ‘either way’…and, eventually, you get to see his determination in following a cause, as well. With his Texan drawl and southern boy manners, Red seems at odds with himself for much of the movie. He is a soldier carrying out his duty, but more importantly, a young man determining his role in life. By the time the last 30 minutes rolls around, Red has finally determined who he is, and what is important to him. Oh, and he’s pretty handy with those explosives, by the way….
Micheal ‘Slo’ Slowenski (Nick Chinlund) is a favorite of mine. I can quite easily picture him as a father, two or three little kids back state, a loving wife. Why do I think that? With no mention of the particulars of their lives back state, this man in particular has an aura of fatherhood about it. He is constantly looking after the Nigerian refugees in a much closer fashion than most of the others, even from the start. He makes sure to talk to them, touch them lightly on the elbow, giving comfort with both his words and actions that he is there for them. He watches out for the people. And I think he gives a [care] for them nearly right from the start. And maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this guy seems to have the same close friendship with Kelley that A.K. and Zee have. Just something in their easy camaraderie, and the looks that pass between the two. I know each of these guys would take a bullet for each other, but there are some friendships that run even closer…and there honestly doesn’t seem to be many friendships that can run deeper than the bond that brothers in arms bear. So, in my head, Slo and Doc are #1 speed dial friends as well, and you can take it or leave it. lol
This guy also gives some light-hearted moments to the script–“Are we there yet?”–though his humor is, overall, a slow and dry one…so if you don’t get it, sorry; I personally love that. He’s pretty cool with a gun, and his laptop/satellite thing (I know, that’s lame, but I don’t know what else to call it). And, he makes me wish, with all my heart, that it wasn’t necessary for the men we love to fight, but yet, makes me prouder than ever of those who do.
Probably my favorite character in this film is Danny ‘Doc’ Kelley (played by Paul Francis). This guy….wow, words fail. But I fell in love with this man completely. He is tough (heck, he made it on the SEAL’s team!), just like all the rest, but still he is a compassionate man….observant, and tender. He never seems to question orders, but carries them out to the best of his ability. I could recount to you every scene he is in, but I’ll stick to just two. While taking a much-needed break in the middle of their flight to the Cameroon border, Doc observes the Nigerian people with them either going hungry, or eating what little fruit was around..and one of their number who is quick to act and slow to talk about it. He turns to Slo, and demands his MRE (Meals Ready to Eat), who replied that he didn’t like ‘roast beef anyway’–as I said, humor–then takes Slo’s and his own to divide up between the people.
The other time is after a shootout…I’m going to skip some of the particulars, partly to avoid spoilers, and partly because its graphic war violence…(here, I usually recommend ClearPlay to cut down on the violence part, but I also feel this is an important scene; just definitely not for anyone under the age of 21, and I’m sticking to that).
While doing all they can to save the life of and comfort someone who experiences first-hand just how horrible this type of war can be, Doc turns to Lena and Patience, and, almost brokenly, but surely in shock, asks who could do such terrible things to another human being. Here is where Patience has a tiny but epic speech, summarizing in this: these are evil men. That is who they are, that is what they do. Evil has no other way.
Doc wears a cross constantly around his wrist; during one scene he prays with/for a suffering victim.
There are three other guys on the team, the two marksmen (again, not too good on the military knowledge, that’s just my guess), Demetrius ‘Silk’ Owens (played by Charles Ingram [no picture]), and Jason ‘Flea’ Mabry (Chad Smith); as well as the point man, Kelly Lake (played by Johnny Messner).
Flea is also a compassionate man…the least storyline of all the men, but still quite likeable. He truly is the silent type (they evidently didn’t have enough time to devout any kind of a script to him), but he is probably the most compassionate and gentle of all the team with the Nigerian refugees. And he has a role to play in that lunch break as well…
Lake is a complex character. You don’t want to like the guy, through various actions/conversations he has…but by the end, he’s made it onto your hero’s list, along with pretty much all the others. And his determination puts some of those other guys to shame. He is a soldiers soldier.
In all, each of these men showed great courage and loyalty; and also, as the film progressed, we are shown that each and every one of them had great personal relationships with one another. They do not all believe in this particular mission, but never do they falter in their dedication to carrying it out. And though this film might lack somewhat in the dialogue department, the actors did a great job conveying the emotional changes they were undergoing.
Yes, there may be some inconsistencies throughout the film (you may spot them better than I did); and you may find it hard to believe that a large force of the rebel army pursues a small band of SEAL’s and refugees through the jungle…but hold on. It’s a great film, and some things become a little clearer the further into the film you get. There is a big surprise hiding in the midst; I wonder if you’d see it coming?
The musical score to this film is amazing. Hans Zimmer is an extraordinarily gifted composer, but he very nearly outdid himself on this one. Highly recommend buying it; I listen to mine all the time.
I actually have the Directors Extended Cut of the film, giving me twenty-four extra minutes of footage, so some of the things I mentioned or alluded to may not be on the Theatrical release. And, as well as the war violence, there is quite a lot of profanity (these are soldiers, fighting in a horrific and violent world, so I do give them leeway for that…I’d just rather not hear it all myself), earning this film an R rating…so Clearplay, or at the very least a Language filter, is recommended. Make no mistake, this is a hard movie to watch; it’s brutal, it’s violent; it is heart-wrenching. But it is also inspiring.
This story is one which fills me with hope. In a world that is so wrong, fraught with so much evil…there is still good to be found, there is still hope left in the world, and in some men.
In the end, we are told that
“the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (credited to Edmund Burke).
And I think that is true.