Tears Of The Sun: Director’s Extended Cut US Theatrical Release: None (Columbia Pictures) US DVD Release: June 7, 2005 Running Time: 2:22:14 (28 chapter stops) Rating: None (Contains lots of brutal violence, some nasty gore, and a fair amount of foul language) Video: 2.40:1 Anamorphic (Extra Features: 4:3 non-anamorphic) Audio: English DD5.1 (Extra Features: English DD2.0) Subtitles: English, French, Spanish (Extra Features: None) TV-Generated Closed Captions: English Menus: Animated transitions (not skippable) plus some background animation Packaging: Standard keepcase; single-sheet insert has cover images for other titles on both sides. MSRP: $19.94 THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3.5/5 Many commentary tracks feature a director pining for his or her “could’a-been” cut. Once in a blue moon, that cut eventually gets its own release. Pretty much out of nowhere, Antoine Fuqua’s 2003 military action adventure Tears Of The Sun has arrived in a new, longer version. The $64,000 question, of course, is whether this new edition is worthy of a double-dip. As the film opens, a (fictional) coup has turned Nigeria, one of the largest and most diverse nations in Africa, into a killing field. Riots and massacres, fueled by religious and tribal conflicts, ravage the land from the largest city to the smallest village. Amidst this chaos, foreign workers and diplomats race for the border. Most of them, anyway. Dr. Lena Kendricks (Monica Bellucci) and her colleagues care for orphans and sick villagers at a rural mission in the jungle. Politics and tribal strife mean little to them. Unfortunately, however, they can no longer afford to ignore the events around them – even nuns and doctors are targets in the bloodbath of civil war. Enter Lieutenant A. K. Waters (Bruce Willis) and his crack squad of Navy SEALs. They’re sent in to retrieve Dr. Kendricks, who is a U. S. citizen. Of course, she refuses to leave without her people, so the soldiers end up escorting a column of dozens of refugees through the jungle towards the border with Cameroon. At first, the troops are not particularly thrilled with the arrangement, especially the automaton-like Waters, and begrudgingly take the villagers only as far as their helicopter extraction point. Naturally, there is no room for the refugees on the birds, and, following a Monica Bellucci Oscar Clip ("You LIED to me!" SLAP!), they are left behind. Once aboard the choppers and en route to the nearby American fleet, the soldiers witness the fate of Kendricks' mission, and realize that the refugees are doomed without their help. To no filmgoer’s surprise, they immediately undergo a change of heart and return to guide their frightened charges to Cameroon and safety. The balance of the film follows the group’s adventures as they race through the jungle with bloodthirsty rebel troops hot on their heels. Although the bulk of the shooting and explosions doesn’t really get started until beyond the halfway point of the film, Tears Of The Sun moves along at a good pace and never becomes dull. The threat of the rebel army hangs over the proceedings like an ominous cloud throughout, keeping the heroes (and the audience) on their toes. Rather than bombard the viewer with two hours of slam-bang action, Director Fuqua builds the tension with close calls and exposition of the developing political situation, rendering the inevitable firefights all the more effective. While none of the characters are developed very deeply, their motivations are clear and their actions are believable. The SEALs are mostly interchangeable except for their hair – Waters’ head is buzzed; one guy wears a do-rag, another a headband, a third sports a bit of a mohawk; there’s a black guy with a cap (who bonds with the Africans more than do his comrades), and so on. By the end of the film, viewers will probably be able to recognize three or four of the group of eight by name, and about the same number of refugees (of whom there are dozens). But that’s not a problem – although most of the characters don’t have a lot of distinguishing features, they do behave like people rather than like cardboard cutouts. That’s sufficient to carry this adventure. Tears Of The Sun takes itself very seriously, with nary a moment of humor to relieve the relentlessly grim events of the story. There are only a handful of witty one-liners from the soldiers, and even those are delivered in a fatalistic deadpan. In addition, there is a fair amount of blood, and some truly disturbing atrocities are seen on-camera. This is no lighthearted action-comedy, and it’s certainly not for the squeamish. The fight sequences are reasonably realistic, with the exception of a few “walking forward through the open, shoulder-to-shoulder, firing machineguns”-type moments. The action is mostly very well put together. So how does the new cut stand up? It definitely holds its own. In comparison to the theatrical release, it’s focused a bit less on Bruce Willis and a bit more on the political situation, with a more developed and interesting story. It flows smoothly, and none of the added material feels tacked-on. While its relatively straightforward extract-the-civilians story, which has been done before in different settings, is not a classic on the order of, say, Black Hawk Down, the Tears Of The Sun: Director's Extended Cut is a very competently made action thriller that’s well worth checking out. THE WAY I SEE IT: 3/5 Most of the time, the picture sports a slightly undersaturated, washed-out look, which is probably intentional, as it gives the film a harsh, almost documentary-like feel. Detail is not bad, but not great either, with solid blacks and very little digital noise. There is only a small amount of edge enhancement; it appears to be entirely absent from many scenes. A bit of flicker is occasionally visible but is not prevalent. THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4.5/5 The soundtrack is a real winner. It displays a great dynamic range -- some scenes are almost completely silent, while others explode with gunfire and, well, explosions. Once in a while, a handful of lines of dialogue are a bit too low to make out clearly, but that’s not a major issue. In tune with the gritty realism of the film, incidental music is kept to a tasteful minimum in most places, bringing the listener into the action to focus on dialogue and ambient sounds. The surround channels and sub are used to great effect, firing up with everything from the calls of jungle creatures to the realistic crack of gunshots to helicopters zipping by and even a mamma-jamma bomb or two. THE SWAG: 2.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity) With the exception of the trailers, the extra features are carried over from the original release. However, some, like the commentary and deleted scenes (which are mostly incorporated into this cut of the film), have been dropped. Journey To Safety –Making Tears Of The Sun (15:04) Director Antoine Fuqua, producer Arnold Rifkin, and various members of the cast discuss the making of the film, from the real-life situation in Africa that inspired it, to the characters and the actors’ military training, to the production itself, to EPK-style self-congratulation. There are a few too many film clips, but there’s also some interesting behind-the-scenes footage. Overall, its limited running time makes it a good but not great piece. Voices Of Africa (20:55) Eight Africans from various countries, who experienced real-life horrors similar to those portrayed in the film, relate their personal stories. Some of their accents are tough to understand, but it’s worth the effort. A very interesting doc. Interactive Map Of Africa Actually a map only of Nigeria, this feature includes a number of small text essays on various cities and regions of the country and some of the events that have transpired there in recent years. An educational and worthwhile inclusion. Previews: Five trailers are included. They can be selected from the main menu or the Special Features menu. Black Hawk Down (2:29) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Stealth (2:33) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic) Layer Cake (1:57) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic) Rescue Me: Season 1 (1:16) (DD2.0; 1.33:1 & 1.78:1 non-anamorphic) Full Throttle (American Chopper, Monster Garage, & Motorcycle Mania) (2:15) (DD2.0; 1.33:1/ 1.78:1 non-anamorphic) SUMMING IT ALL UP The Way I Feel About It: 3.5/5 The Way I See It: 3/5 The Way I Hear It: 4.5/5 The Swag: 2.5/5 Back to that $64,000 question. Which version of Tears Of The Sun to get? Those looking for the superior cut of the film, who don’t care too much about the missing extra features, will want this new edition. Those who already own the previous release, and who don’t mind watching the deleted scenes separately, probably don’t need to double-dip, although a rental may be in order for the sake of a personal comparison. The changes elevate an OK flick to a good solid thriller. And with a decent image and an excellent soundtrack on this disc, there are no major complaints in the A/V department. It’s too bad that many of the special features were dropped, although those that remain are worth a look. A single set using seamless branching to include both cuts, with all of the extra features intact, would have been ideal, but the two existing releases both have their strong points. That said, the new edition is clearly the better film.