Tears of the Sun [2003]

While it offers nothing new to the military action genre, Tears of the Sun distinguishes itself with fine acting, expert craftsmanship, and seriousness of purpose. Its familiar "extraction mission" plot is essentially similar to that of Black Hawk Down, involving a crack team of U.S. Special Ops commandos struggling to rescue innocent missionaries amidst the bloody horror of Nigerian ethnic cleansing. With Bruce Willis as their grizzled, no-nonsense commander, the skillful team enters a hot zone that gets even hotter when their "package"--an American national (Monica Bellucci) who runs the isolated mission--demands that 70 Nigerian villagers be included in the rescue. Willis's uneasy conscience leads him to defy orders and expand his mission, and in an ambitious follow up to Training Day, director Antoine Fuqua escalates tension and strike-force with considerable emotional impact. Originally considered as a potential entry in Willis's Die Hard series, and released on the eve of America's war with Iraq, Tears of the Sun admirably avoids jingoism with its rousing story of personal good vs. political evil. --Jeff Shannon

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