Tears of the Sun

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Tears of the Sun
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAntoine Fuqua
Written byAlex Lasker
Patrick Cirillo
Produced byIan Bryce
Mike Lobell
Arnold Rifkin
StarringBruce Willis
Monica Bellucci
Cole Hauser
Tom Skerritt
CinematographyMauro Fiore
Edited byConrad Buff
Music byHans Zimmer
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • March 7, 2003 (2003-03-07)
Running time
121 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$100.5 million[1]
Box office$86.5 million[2][3]

Tears of the Sun is a 2003 American action thriller film[4] depicting a fictitious U.S. Navy SEAL team rescue mission amidst the 21st-century version of the civil war in Nigeria.[5][6] Lieutenant A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis) commands the team sent to rescue U.S. citizen Dr. Lena Fiore Kendricks (Monica Bellucci) before the approaching rebels reach her jungle hospital. The film was directed by Antoine Fuqua.

Willis produced Tears of the Sun through Cheyenne Enterprises, his production company.


A coup d'état led by exiled General Mustafa Yakubu overthrows the President of Nigeria Samuel Azuka, sending Nigeria into chaos and causing an ethnic conflict between the Fulani Muslims and the Christian Igbo. Samuel and his family are assassinated, and foreigners are evacuated from the country. Aboard the Harry S. Truman, a Navy Seal team, led by A.K. Waters, is tasked by Captain Bill Rhodes to extract Dr. Lena Fiore Kendricks, a U.S. citizen by marriage to the late Dr. John Kendricks who was killed by rebels in Sierra Leone and the mission's priest and two nuns, should they choose to come.

The team reaches Kendricks, who refuses to leave without her patients. Waters calls Rhodes for options; after a conversation, he concedes to Kendricks' wishes and agrees to take those refugees who can walk. Kendricks begins assembling the able-bodied; the priest and the nuns stay behind to care for the injured.

Irritated and behind schedule, the team and the refugees leave the hospital mission after daybreak. At nightfall, they take a break when rebels approach their position, and Waters stealthily kills one to prevent them from being discovered. Kendricks warns Waters that the rebels are going to the mission, but he is determined to carry out his orders, and they continue to the extraction point. At the mission, the staff and refugees are detained by the rebels. Despite the priest's pleas for mercy, the rebels murder him and the remaining occupants.

When the team arrives at the extraction point, Waters' initial plan becomes clear: the SEALs turn away the refugees from the waiting helicopter. Waters forces Kendricks into the helicopter against her will, leaving the refugees stranded in the jungle, defenseless against the rebels. En route back to Harry Truman, they fly over the original mission compound, seeing it destroyed and all its occupants murdered.

Remorseful, Waters orders the pilot to return to the refugees. He loads as many refugees as he can into the helicopter and decides to escort the remaining ones to the Cameroon border. En route, the SEALs discover the rebels are tracking them. The team enters a village whose inhabitants are being massacred by the rebels. Waters and his team kill the rebels, but are shaken by the atrocities which have been committed against the villagers.

Realizing the rebels are approaching their position, the SEALs conclude that a refugee is transmitting their location. One of the recently arrived refugees, Gideon, is the informant and tries to run but is shot by Silk. He was bugged with a transmitter. Suspicious, the SEAL's search for his co-conspirators reveals the presence of Arthur Azuka, who is the surviving son of Samuel Azuka. That is why the rebels are hunting them: Samuel was not only the president of the country but also the tribal king of the Ibo. As the only surviving member of this royal bloodline, Arthur is the only person with a legitimate claim to the Ibo nation.

The SEALs decide to continue escorting the refugees to Cameroon. A firefight ensues when the rebels catch up with them, and the SEALs decide to stay behind as rearguard to buy the refugees enough time to reach the border. Slo, Lake, Flea, and Silk die in the firefight, and Zee calls in for air support. Waters, Red, Doc, and Zee are wounded but direct the jets on where to attack the rebels. Air support wipes out the rebels as Rhodes arrives at the border with reinforcements. He orders the gate open, letting in the SEALs and the refugees.

Rhodes promises Waters that he will recover the bodies of Waters' men. Kendricks bids farewells to her Nigerian friends and flies away in a helicopter while comforting Waters, watching as Arthur is surrounded by his people proclaiming their freedom.


  • Bruce Willis as Lieutenant A.K. Waters, US Navy - Team Leader Commander
  • Monica Bellucci as Dr. Lena Fiore Kendricks - Doctor at the International Humanitarian Aid
  • Tom Skerritt as Captain Bill Rhodes, US Navy - Commanding Officer
  • Cole Hauser as James "Red" Atkins, US Navy - Heavy Gunner and Explosives Specialist
  • Paul Francis as Danny "Doc" Kelley, US Navy - Corpsman
  • Eamonn Walker as Ellis "Zee" Pettigrew, US Navy - Radioman and Grenadier
  • Johnny Messner as Johnny Kelly "JKL" Lake, US Navy - Recon and Pointman
  • Nick Chinlund as Michael "Slo" Slowenski, US Navy - SAW Gunner and Reconnaissance GPS Enemy Tech
  • Charles Ingram as Demetrius "Silk" Owens, US Navy - Sniper
  • Chad Smith as Jason "Flea" Mabry, US Navy - Marksman
  • Cornelia Hayes O'Herlihy as Sister Siobhan O'Connor
  • Fionnula Flanagan as Sister Grace McIntyre
  • Pierrino Mascarino as Father Giovanni Fianni
  • Peter Mensah as Commander Terwase
  • Malick Bowens as Colonel Idris Sadick
  • Akosua Busia as Patience
  • Sammi Rotibi as Arthur Azuka, son of Nigeria President Samuel Azuka
  • Benjamin Ochieng as Colonel Emanuel Okeze, bodyguard of Arthur Azuka

The cast included African refugees living in the United States, some of whom were from the group known as the 'Lost Boys of Sudan'.[6]


Harry Humphries, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, was the technical adviser to the film, having advised the earlier Black Hawk Down.[7] According to the Blu-ray factoid, the aircraft carrier scenes were filmed aboard the active USS Harry S. Truman, 60 miles (97 km) east of Cape Hatteras in the Atlantic Ocean. The Navy repeatedly turned the carrier so that director Fuqua would have beneficial lighting conditions.[6] The story is based on a mission of the Canadian Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) that took place in Colombia. An ex-member of the commando wrote the original story and suggested it when he met the production team of Executive Decision (1996) on a set in Nevada.

Fuqua has stated that he and Bruce Willis did not get along with each other during the making of this film.[8][9][10]


The movie was shown in U.S. theaters on March 13, 2003,[11] having premiered earlier on March 3.[12] The 20-minutes longer "Director's Extended Cut" was released on DVD in 2005 and begins with the killing of the Nigerian president, adding political context.[6][13] The Blu-ray theatrical cut was released in September 2006,[14] containing low-definition deleted scenes instead of that extended cut.[15]


Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 33% based on 155 reviews and an average rating of 4.93/10. The website's critical consensus states that the film "tries to be high-minded, but in the end, it's just a stylish action movie."[16] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 48 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[17]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[18]

Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and said, "Tears of the Sun is a film constructed out of rain, cinematography and the face of Bruce Willis. These materials are sufficient to build a film almost as good as if there had been a better screenplay."[19]

In retrospect, Director Antoine Fuqua said:

"It made money. The reason I did it was because there was an opportunity to say something real. And I think there was a fear on a lot of different people's parts, once I started bring people from Africa over here, people with one legs, people who really experienced these things over there. It got very real, and all of the sudden people started saying, "Wow, we want to make sure this makes money, we want to market this, it needs to be more of an action movie." There's too much money involved for this to be just an important story about these people's plight. And it became that during the shooting, which is really difficult because you go into a movie trying to say something, and then in the middle of it, people shift gears on you because of the business or people not believing it can be successful without more action or more heroic things." - said Fuqua. "It got twisted, and it became very frustrating for me because I found myself doing more of an action movie, which is not what I wanted to do. It was a fight, a battle on everybody's part".

He concluded by: "I got pissed, Bruce (Willis) got pissed. I actually like Bruce, it just got to a point where working together was difficult, because we say two different movies. So, what do you do? He's the bigger star. It's hard to fight that. People pay to see him."[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lang, Brent (September 2, 2011). "'Gigli's' Real Price Tag — Or, How Studios Lie About Budgets". TheWrap.com. Archived from the original on May 9, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  2. ^ Tears of the Sun at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "Tears of the Sun". TheNumbers.com. Archived from the original on June 11, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  4. ^ "Tears of the Sun (2003) - Antoine Fuqua". AllMovie. Archived from the original on 2020-10-07. Retrieved 2020-03-01.
  5. ^ Ukaegbu, Chikwendu Christian (2005). "Lessons from Biafra: The Structuration of Socially Relevant Science in the Research and Production Directorate". Social Forces. 83 (4): 1395–1423. doi:10.1353/sof.2005.0085. ISSN 0037-7732. JSTOR 3598398. S2CID 155015139. Archived from the original on 2022-11-25. Retrieved 2022-11-25.
  6. ^ a b c d Chester, Robert K (2013-08-01). "Crusading in Africa: Religion, Race, and Post-9/11 Intervention in Antoine Fuqua's Tears of the Sun (2003)". War & Society. 32 (2): 138–155. doi:10.1179/0729247313Z.00000000021. ISSN 0729-2473. S2CID 162492334.
  7. ^ Hunter, Stephen (2003-03-07). "'Tears of the Sun': An Accomplished Mission". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-09-27.
  8. ^ Hennigan, Adrian (September 24, 2014). "No. 18: Antoine Fuqua". BBC. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  9. ^ Otto, Jeff (July 9, 2004). "Interview: Antoine Fuqua". IGN. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  10. ^ Sneider, Jeff (May 27, 2010). "Bruce Willis in Talks to Enter Summit's 'Tomb'". TheWrap. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  11. ^ "Tears Of The Sun", AMC Theatres, 2003-03-06, archived from the original on 2021-09-27, retrieved 2021-09-27
  12. ^ "Tears Of The Sun Premiere Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images". www.gettyimages.com. Archived from the original on 2021-09-27. Retrieved 2021-09-27.
  13. ^ Horiuchi, David (2005-06-07), Tears Of The Sun, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, archived from the original on 2021-09-27, retrieved 2021-09-27
  14. ^ Liebman, Martin, "Tears of the Sun Blu-ray", blu-ray.com, archived from the original on 2021-09-27, retrieved 2021-09-27
  15. ^ Bracke, Peter. "Tears of the Sun Blu-ray Review | High Def Digest". bluray.highdefdigest.com. Archived from the original on 2021-09-27. Retrieved 2021-09-27.
  16. ^ "Tears of the Sun (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  17. ^ "Tears of the Sun Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on March 7, 2018. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  18. ^ Tears of the Sun. Archived from the original on 2019-12-10. Retrieved 2017-10-17. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  19. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Tears of the Sun". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2009-06-18.
  20. ^ http://legacy.aintitcool.com/node/31644

External links[edit]