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"Tears Of The Sun"

IN THE dead of night, a few brave men fly into the stormy, beautiful, lush continent that is Africa, to fulfil a mission they have been ordered to do. They ask no questions and they have no fear in their hearts! All they do know is that they are on rescue mission-and that orders are orders.

Columbia Pictures, ``Tears Of The Sun," deals with a noble cause indeed — of course from the point of view of the Americans who must police all atrocities anywhere in the world. In this instance it happens to be Nigeria where rebel troops have taken over, assassinating the ruling monarchy.

They happen to be rebels on the rampage and the next destination is a Catholic mission, where unknown to us till half the film, the only survivor of the royal family, is hiding among the many sick and ailing. And a doctor, priest and two nuns are tending all of them. The captain, (Tom Skerritt) of USS Harry S Truman, stationed off the coast of Africa has been ordered to send in his top team into this hostile territory to evacuate them. It is to save these missionaries that Lt. Waters, (Bruce Willis, sporting the bald look) known to complete difficult assignments, leads his team of navy personnel, right into the civil war.

But Waters comes across someone he didn't bargain for — — a fiery Dr. Lena Kendrick, (Monica Belucci) American citizen by marriage, who refuses to leave unless they rescue all those there at the mission.

Waters agrees to her conditions says he will `chopper' all of them to safety, but when they do reach the choppers it is only Lena who he wants to take charge of. Not for romantic reasons please! He is just pretending, so his job will be easier and orders would be fulfilled. So he tricks her and Lena is both devastated and angry. They see the remains of a rampage — villages burnt and several people savagely killed.

Waters orders the choppers to go back and get the rest of the refugees. From then on the movie is all about getting and dragging the lot into the safe borders of Cameroon.

They are challenged at every step by the blood thirsty rebel troops, but with each atrocity the Americans witness, the more determined they are to save the refugees and restore Nigeria to its rightful governance!

The film is predictable and also has its flaws - there are logistic errors and the passage of time seems very unclear.

Considering most of the film has been shot virtually in the dark, there is not much one can make out most of the time.

But what you can eventually see is beautifully captured by the camera. Add to that Lena's perfectly painted mouth (the lipstick remains firmly on, despite trekking through really hostile territory for days!)

Mercifully, there is very little dialogue. But the marvellous visual imagery makes up for the lack of talking and the beautiful background score by Hans Zimmer incorporates an African flavour, giving the proceedings a poignant touch. But there are effective, dramatic moments as well — as when the people in the helicopter look down at the aftermath of a massacre, or when the soldiers enter a town being cleansed by the rebels, or the last hopeless battle, which is very well choreographed.

Bruce Willis is stony faced, very macho, man of few words, and has a `work is worship' attitude, who you would admire, but not warm up to. Monica looks good even when grimy, but is just about adequate. The others just fill their roles. The director (Antoine Fuqua of ``Training Day") has no time to dwell on Waters' motivation to begin disobeying orders for human reasons. Neither is there any justification offered about military intervention into another country, regardless of the issues on hand. The film in fact, extols intervention and perhaps the last few scenes of the tearful gratitude of the refugees telling the Americans `God will never forget what you have done," seem to underline this.

CHITRA MAHESH

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