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Every now and then a movie comes along which completely bombs at the box office and the DVD is then released before you even have the chance to blink. Normally when this happens, the region one DVD is out even before the movie plays in UK cinemas. This was certainly the case with Tears of the Sun, which was released in UK cinemas three months after the region one DVD had hit shelves. What makes this even more surprising is the fact that the movie was directed by Antoine Fuqua who had been responsible for classics such as Training Day and Replacement Killers. Tears of the Sun recouped just half of its budget at the American box office so it couldn’t have come as much of a surprise to the studio when that disappointment was emulated in the UK. Now it’s the turn of the region two DVD to try and claw back some credibility.

Tears of the Sun
Lt. A.K. Waters has seen it all; he is a veteran Navy S.E.A.L. who prides himself on the fact that he has never failed a mission. The scene for Lieutenant Waters’ latest mission is Nigeria, where we learn that civil war has just erupted and the country is in chaos. The presidential family has just been assassinated and the authorities are warning that foreign civilians are in danger. The main culprits behind the atrocities seem to be rebel fighters who are slowly working their way through the country killing Christians and are aiming to replace the current government with a new Muslim leadership. Captain Bill Rhodes (Tom Skerritt) knows that he can rely on Waters and his squad to get the job done, so he sends them into the jungle with the aim of rescuing Dr Hendricks (Monica Bellucci). Dr Kendricks is a US citizen who has been living in the jungle as part of a Catholic mission. Unfortunately, US intelligence has pinpointed the mission as the next target for the rebels, so Waters has been ordered to rescue the doctor at all costs.

The Lieutenant soon learns that the doctor is a determined lady and she insists that all of her patients are rescued as well. Left with little choice, Waters pretends to agree to take the additional passengers, as he knows that his Captain won’t agree to the move. Somewhat reluctantly, Hendricks agrees to the evacuation, but as they reach the rendezvous point it becomes apparent to her that her rescuers have no intentions of saving the patients. Her struggle is in vain as she doesn’t stand much chance of resisting and she is bundled into a rescue helicopter while her patients are left watching from the ground. As the helicopters takes off it is clear that Lieutenant Waters is upset. He has a change of heart and does an about turn. When they get back to the meeting point, Waters decides to start evacuating some of the females and children. His actions are not well received by the commanding officer and Waters is told that it is too risky to send any more helicopters. Left to wander the jungle on foot, their mission looks to be quite tricky, but things are about to get even worse! The rescue party are being followed by a rebel militia group who have a hidden agenda, and seem hell-bent on achieving their goal. Will Waters and his unit make it to the border in time or will he live to regret his decision?

Tears of the Sun
Tears of the Sun is one of the grittiest war dramas that I have seen in recent years. Even though the movie is based on a fictional conflict this doesn’t stop the images portrayed from being any less disturbing. There are going to be comparisons between this film and Black Hawk Down, but essentially they tackle completely different areas of civil war. Tears of the Sun chooses to deal with the characters affected by such atrocities while Black Hawk Down focused on the action. Which one you prefer will come down to personal choice, but I have time for both. The final half hour of this movie focuses purely on the action, and to some extent it loses its impact by doing this, but I am sure this part was added to leave fans on a high.

The success of this movie has a lot to do with the cast. Even though Bruce Willis doesn’t attract the audiences that he used to, he still has plenty to offer on the big screen. It’s fair to say that the character he plays doesn’t require too much effort, but nevertheless he comes through with some credit. Monica Bellucci is also outstanding in her role as Dr Kendricks, but it will be interesting to see how the former Matrix star will fair in the upcoming Passion Of Christ movie. Tears of the Sun is not without its faults though, which is one of the reasons why I wouldn’t class this movie as highly one such as Saving Private Ryan. The opening hour drags at times, but from around sixty minutes the film takes a new direction and doesn’t look back. Tears of the Sun was largely ignored at the cinema, and hopefully this DVD release will raise its profile as it deserves a much bigger audience!

Tears of the Sun is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 which is also anamorphically enhanced. Columbia Tristar have built up a strong reputation for delivering first class DVD transfers and this one is no different. The films wonderful scenery and locations are brought to screen in striking fashion, and this is strongly backed up by the restrained, yet accurate colour palette. Greens were of particular interest, with the Nigerian jungle and countryside portrayed in all its wonder. Black levels were also solid, while skin tones appeared accurate. As expected, the print is in exemplary condition and detail levels were spot-on.

There was no sign of compression artefacts during this presentation which, considering the number of soundtracks included, is quite an achievement. I suppose the minimal number of extras has a large part to play here, but more about that later! Grain was kept to a manageable level, and there is the occasional sign of edge enhancements but nothing detrimental. Overall, Columbia Tristar have produced yet another first class transfer which should help to maintain their impressive reputation.

Another aspect of DVD where Columbia seem to excel is the sound, in particular with their region two releases. All too often, region two releases don’t cater for other languages, and if they do then the soundtracks included are simple 2.0 tracks. However Columbia Tristar carry a somewhat different view and this disc is a prime example of their commitment to different languages. Included with this release are four separate Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks (English, Czech, Russian and Hungarian). It is a little confusing that the French track which came with the region one disc is not included, but obviously the studio know who their target audience is. While a DTS track would have been nice with a movie of this genre, the lack of it doesn’t matter too much as the 5.1 tracks are of notable quality. The surrounds are used at every opportunity and provide an immersive atmosphere, particularly during some of the battle scenes which will bring out the best in your home cinema system. If you don’t own such a system then try and get a demo from a friend who owns this disc and you will be mightily impressed!

Tears of the Sun
As for the dialogue levels, for the most part they are clear and audible, but during some of the action scenes it was quite difficult to hear what was being said. Whether or not this was intentional is debateable. The musical score also deserves a mention; it was created by Hans Zimmer and is haunting but at the same time extremely powerful. If you are looking for a soundtrack to give your system a good workout then I would definitely recommend Tears of the Sun as a good starting point. It is also worth pointing out that there are subtitles in fifteen languages, so most foreign languages should be catered for.

The extras on this disc are a little disappointing to say the least, but on par with the region one disc. The first extra is entitled Voices Of Africa and involves eight separate interviews with people who were affected by the atrocities in Nigeria. The interviews can be viewed individually or as one long featurette. Each person talks about their experiences and this makes for one of the most emotional extras to have been released on DVD so far. Next up are 8 Deleted Scenes which are presented in widescreen but are not anamorphically enhanced. Some of the scenes are extensions of the originals, but nevertheless there are some interesting scenes which could arguably have been included in the final cut. The scenes vary in length from around 20 seconds to two minutes. My personal favourite is an extension to the final scene, and in my opinion it should have been included. However, I can see why it wasn’t because the film wouldn’t have finished in such spectacular fashion.  

If you were intrigued by the nature of this movie and the overall topic that it covers then you will be interested by the audio commentary included. The commentary features the director, and he offers bags of useful information which should keep you intrigued for the duration. There are very few pauses during his commentary, and this is definitely one of the most detailed commentaries I have heard for a while. The next extra of any note is called Interactive Map Of Africa and as the title suggests is a map of Africa where you can select a particular location. Once you have selected a location you can view information about that sector and find out more about the history of the countries involved.  I wished I had found this extra before watching the film as it gives lots of useful information and would have enhanced my viewing of the movie. Along the same lines is an extra called Africa Fact Track which can be best described as fancy subtitles. If you select this extra you can watch the movie with fancy boxes which appear at random points and tell you relevant information about that section of the movie.

Tears of the Sun
There is also a ‘making of’ documentary included with this release which is called Journey to Safety: The Making of Tears of the Sun. The documentary lasts for fifteen minutes. It is a standard run of the mill documentary, where we get to hear from the director and various cast members. A lot of this documentary focuses on the realism of the movie, so if you were intrigued by the film then you should probably take a look at this. Like most documentaries it is advisable to watch this after the main movie as it gives a way a lot of the film’s best moments. Last but not least Columbia Tristar have also included their traditional selection of trailers, and there are seven included with this disc. Apart from Tears of the Sun there are also trailers included for Bad Boys 2, Black Hawk Down, Charlies Angels 2, Hollywood Homicide, S.W.A.T and Terminator 3.

Up until recently, you could count on a new war movie being released every year, but the last couple of years has seen a distinct lack of them. Films with similar subject matter such as Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers have all received a huge amount of publicity, but for some reason Tears of the Sun was largely ignored when it was released last year. This is a shame because the film actually has a lot to offer and is at least on par with We Were Soldiers. It’s not a classic, but as long as you don’t expect a life changing experience then I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

Columbia Tristar have done a reasonable job of trying to persuade people to take the plunge with this release. An excellent transfer and four rip-roaring soundtracks are reasons alone to make this disc a part of your collection. The extras are on par with the region one disc as well. If you are a fan of the war genre then there is absolutely no reason for you to miss out on this.