Friday, March 07, 2003

Tears of the Sun is almost historic. It may also prove to be something of an anomaly--more on that later--but its existence at all is a little remarkable. I'm referring to the way this movie not only makes its villains Muslims, but also identifies them as Muslims in a way that recent films have declined to do: The Chechen bad guys at the beginning of Proof of Life, for example, are called the Chechen nationalist militia rather than the Jihadists that they are. Other films, like The Siege, dutifully trot out "good" Muslim characters who pat the increasingly somnolent audience on the head while delivering narrative-deadening lectures about how these terrorists aren't "true" Muslims, yadda yadda yadda. Tears of the Sun, on the other hand, has nothing mealy-mouthed about it: The villains are openly identified as Muslim ethnic Fulanis (the same group that brought us the recent Miss World massacres), and their victims Christian ethnic Ibos. To a viewer of current American cinema, the bold simplicity of the statement is, frankly, a little stunning.

Is it any good? Well, yeah, I liked it. It's a solemn, sedate film about a group of Navy Seals rescuing a doctor from ethnic carnage in Nigeria. If I were to include it in the range of recent war films, it's nowhere near as good as Black Hawk Down (a film to which it has some similarities), but infinitely better than Windtalkers. I even liked it more than We Were Soldiers, which shares TotS's sentimentality and heavyhandedness. So what did I like about it?

For all that goodness, I fear the tone of TotS may not be seen again much. What I suspect about this film is that it was written or greenlighted not long after 9/11, and the beliefs we see and hear in the film are strongly influenced by that event. When one of the Seals says to a Fulani gunman over the body of one of his victims, "Look at your work, motherfucker" before he kills him--it feels like a 9/11 vengeance fantasy.

But lately it feels like the spell that produced this film has worn off, and Hollywood is tending back to its normal America-hating, moral-relativizing, Stalinist-propagandizing self. The recent release of the quintessential Americaphobic movie of all time, The Quiet American, points to this. So all in all, Tears of the Sun may simply be, in years to come, an oddball film, a pure ideological anomaly.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?