‘This Is What They Do’: Looking Back on 2003’s Tears of the Sun (Spoilers Ahead)

There’s an argument to be made, or rather had, as to how long people will follow their roles during a crisis. Will soldiers soldier on? Will doctors tend to the sick? Will civilians go where beckoned and refugees hasten to safety or yield to authority?

Will idealists stay that way? Will soldiers?

Bruce Willis & Antoine Fuqua

(from left to right) Star Bruce Willis and director Antoine Fuqua at an event for their 2003 feature film, Tears of the Sun (L. Cohen/GettyImages.com Photo and Caption)

For much of director Antoine Fuqua’s 2003 feature film, Tears of the Sun, the answer is (generally) yes.

But plots are often born of different outcomes.


Director Antoine Fuqua on the set of his 2003 feature film, Tears of the Sun (RavePad.net Photo)

The film’s direction is very much the evacuation of Monica Bellucci’s Dr Lena Kendricks and the refugees under her care from a nearly-imminently overrun medical camp in Nigeria. Director Fuqua keeps the focus on that as the film’s subjectively seen central plot with subplots – including the quest for air support that nearly never comes, the hunt for the mole among the refugees’ ranks and the Nigerian rebels’ crackdown – all feeding into the main plot.

It’s really quite straightforward to follow.

That being said, and as is the tradition on The Autheurs, director Fuqua’s trademarks are all over 2003’s Tears of the Sun, especially the following:

  1. Characters driven by or fighting for a belief: Much like 2016’s The Magnificent Seven‘s Emma Cullen or 2001’s Training Day‘s Jake Hoyt, Monica Bellucci’s Dr Lena Hendricks is driven to defy Bruce Willis’s Lieutenant Waters by her husband and her’s desire to help which the former was killed for by the rebels.
  2. Intense depictions of violence: Much like Alonzo’s murder in 2001’s Training Day or the Gatling gun assault in 2016’s The Magnificent Seven, the amputations, wounds and rifle injuries of the soldiers and refugees in 2003’s Tears of the Sun, as seen when Waters and company walk through Lena’s medical camp, are not hidden off-screen.
  3. Non-shaky cam shot action scenes: Despite the presence of quite a few battle rushes and gunfights in 2003’s Tears of the Sun, it – much like the likes of 2001’s Training Day and 2016’s The Magnificent Seven – keeps its action in frame withour resorting to shaky camerawork or quick cuts; the final battle sequence near the Cameroonian border is such a case in point, aerial strikes and all.

As always, please let us know if you find any Fuqua-isms in 2003’s Tears of the Sun or really any of the director’s films in the comments below. Thank you.

The script, courtesy of co-screenwriters Alex Lasker and Patrick Cirillo, and given the (tran)script available here, it doesn’t appear that the film left much out. Barring the lack of allusions to the source of the film’s title (barring the part-pun allusion to Arthur Azuka’s tears over Colonel Okeze’s death near the film’s end) and its central plot, there isn’t much else going on.

Please excuse the lack of pictures for the screenwriters owing to lack of proper resolution photographs for both of them.

Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci and Antoine Fuqua

(from left to right) Stars Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci and director Antoine Fuqua at an event for 2003’s Tears of the Sun (Chris Polk/GettyImages.com Photo and Caption)

The film’s core acting duo are Bruce Willis’s Lieutenant A.K. Waters and Monica Bellucci’s Dr Lena Kendricks. Both are depicted in the middle of their professional enviroment and both disagree because of it. That being said, Bruce Willis’s Lieutenant Waters is really the only one of the two to actually come around to the other’s way of thinking and be changed – ‘broke my own rule: started to give a f***’ – because of it.


(from left to right) American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) then-President Marilyn Bergman presenting composer Hans Zimmer with an ASCAP Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 (Kevin Winter/GettyImages.com Photo and Caption)

The score, courtesy of composer Hans Zimmer, carries a distinctly 1979’s Alien-y sound that echoes the tracks Main Title and Hyper Sleep on that film’s score album. There is also a lot of ethnically-inspired score on the album but nothing really in the way of louder action cues.


(from left to right) Director Antoine Fuqua and Director of Photography Mauro Fiore on the set of 2001’s Training Day (Warner Bros Photo and Caption via Cineplex.com)

The cinematography, courtesy of Director of Photography Mauro Fiore, is especially teal-tinged with a reliance on greys, blacks, greens and teal to convey the sweaty and humid conditions in the jungle and the toll on the soldiers and refugees faces alike.

Going forward to 2016’s The Magnificent Seven, there are a series of wider landscape shots that echo what was present in that film just a bit.

Whilst there is also a great deal of jungle floor-leve photography that keeps the film’s events framed between the visible canopy, sky and jungle floor they don’t occur as frequently as, say, 2001’s Training Day‘s alleyway or street-level photography.

Very simplistically, director Antoine Fuqua’s 2003 feature film, Tears of the Sun, is a straightforwardly-plotted, violent, but still lower-key voyage through the Hawaiian-made-Nigerian jungle. Newcomers to the director’s filomography may want to use it as a quieter entry-point whilst others may find it to be an explosive, yet restrained action movie.

(Whilst the opinions and observations cited above are, unless stated otherwise, the author’s own, the following sources were used to acquire information: CIA.gov, IMDb.com)

Plot and Act-by-Act Breakdown:

Plot: a Navy SEAL decides to evacuate a left-behind doctor and her seventy refugee associates.

Prologue: a montage of news clips introducing the military coup in Nigeria and its ramifications.

Act 1: Waters returns to the USS Harry S Truman with the ambassador; Waters decides to head back to Nigeria after being told about the new mission.

Act 2: Waters and company decide to and manage to take the medical encampment; Waters manages to track down Lena.

Act 3: Lena refuses to leave without the refugees in the camp; Waters decides to take them along to.

Act 4: Waters and company decide to head off into the jungle to the extraction point; further in, Waters decides to stop for rest.

Act 5: Waters chooses to tell Lena to keep the baby quiet after rebel troops come close by; Waters decides to kill the rebel straggler to keep him from raising an alarm.

Act 6: Waters and company decide to flag down the helicopters via smoke; Waters decides to leave the refugees behind and leave with Lena and his men.

Act 7: Lena and Waters see the burnt church compound; Waters decides to head back mid-flight for the refugees.

Act 8: Waters decides to send the children ahead of them in the helicopters; Waters and company decide to walk the rest to the Cameroonian border.

Act 9: Waters and company find the raided village en route to the border; Waters decides to intervene and stop the bloodshed.

Act 10: Waters and company manage to secure the village; Waters agrees to let Lena mend his arm.

Act 11: Waters decides to have their accompanying refugees searched for tracking devices; Waters chooses to shoot Gideon after he flees.

Act 12: Waters decides to threaten a suspicious refugee to coerce their cooperation; Waters decides to back down after Arthur Ozuka reveals himself.

Act 13: Waters manages to convince Bill to send in air support; Waters decides to ask his team if they should proceed to the Cameroonian border.

Act 14: Waters and company stop mid-hike to the Cameroonian border; Waters and company decide to fend off the attacking rebels.

Act 15: Waters and company keep fending off the rebels; Waters decides to order the refugees to keep pushing towards Cameroon.

Act 16: Waters, company and the refugees manage to reach the Cameroonian border; Waters decides to head back to the grass to find his men.

Act 17: Waters decides to call in the air strike at the price of his own safety; Waters manages to escape back to the border post-airstrike.

Act 18: Waters decides to lead the survivors of his men back to the border; Waters and Lena are evacuated by Bill via helicopter.

Epilogue: The Nigerian refugees cheer Waters and Lena as they evacuate; they gather around and celebrate Arthur Ozuka’s safe arrival.

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