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15
Aug 03
Fri

Tears of the Sun

This was an impressive film. You can always approach a film like this with a cynical eye, or you can go with the flow and become immersed in it. If you do the latter, this film is very powerful. If you do the latter, the effect is lost, but the movie’s core sentiments are still true at heart. Possible spoilers ahead, but it’s not the plot you’re watching this movie for, it’s the themes. I rarely lapse into idealistic rambling, but I don’t think lapsing into idealistic moods occasionally is a bad thing at all.

The film dives straight into it. A military team led by Bruce Willis is sent in to extract “foreign nationals” (ie: Americans) from an African country that has plunged into another brutal civil war/rebel uprising. It’s telling that it could be virtually any African nation, but this one happens to be Nigeria (and what ironic timing, given Nigeria’s current involvement in Liberia). The team’s primary object is to get a doctor, played by Monica Belucci, to safety. When she refuses to leave without taking a bundle of Nigerian refugees along with her, an apparently straightforward assignment quickly turns perilous as Willis’ conscious elects for the moral high road. Unfortunately the moral high road is extremely long and deadly.

Far too often we hear about ethnic cleansing and African warlords massacring civilian men, women and children. It may appear in the news for a few days. Soon, however, it is forgotten. If a similar event happened in Western society, just a single case of systematic ethnic cleansing and mutilation, the news would not leave the front pages for weeks. This is simply true because we do not regard genocide as something particularly unexpected in impoverished nations. Something like that happening on home soil, however, is unthinkable. That’s unfortunately the harsh reality of the world, and hearing about it through the news is such a sterile way of hearing what are truly “crimes against humanity”. However, regardless of how expected, or unexpected such atrocities are, they are universally held as atrocities, and it is perhaps saddening that they do not get as much attention as they warrant.

One of the strongest scenes for me was when the cavalry gets called in and two US jets firebomb a horde of murderous rebels. It wasn’t because of the pyrotechnics, or the bodies flying up in the air, or the feeling of “you fuckers got what you deserve”. After seeing a band of ethnic cleansing rebels raze a village, rape the women, kill the men and children, we realise the huge power imbalance between those with small arms and those without. The way the vulnerability of the innocent are “exploited” as they are exterminated is terrifying. Then we see a similar power imbalance as the jets fire their rockets and in one fell swoop kill a few hundred soldiers. The first world and the third world are two extraordinarily different places. The former wields an enormous amount of power, and it is scary to think about what could happen, or does happen, if used irresponsibly.

Let’s not kid anyone. This movie is not enough to galvanise very many people into doing anything about it. It’s still too remote, too distant. Hopefully, what the movie does is make people think about it, to imagine what it would be like to live in a world that is otherwise unimaginable. That would already be a good start.

Highly recommended.