Tears of the Sun: Collector's Edition (2003)

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Released 19-Jan-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Director
Informational Subtitles-Africa Fact Track
Featurette-Making Of-Journey To Safety: Making "Tears Of The Sun"
Featurette-Voices Of Africa
Deleted Scenes
Notes-Interactive Map Of Africa
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Bad Boys II, Black Hawk Down,Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
Trailer-Hollywood Homicide, S.W.A.T.
Trailer-Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 115:58
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Antoine Fuqua
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Bruce Willis
Monica Bellucci
Cole Hauser
Eamonn Walker
Johnny Messner
Nick Chinlund
Charles Ingram
Paul Francis
Chad Smith
Tom Skerritt
Malick Bowens
Awaovieyi Agie
Akosua Busia
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music James Michael Dooley
Lisa Gerrard
Steve Jablonsky


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
Bulgarian
Croatian
Czech
Greek
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Polish
Romanian
Russian
Serbian
Slovenian
Turkish
English Information
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Tears of the Sun is the latest offering from American director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Replacement Killers). The film is set amidst the turmoil following a present-day military coup in Nigeria. Whilst entirely fictitious, the story does bring in a number of issues prevalent throughout the numerous areas of ongoing conflict in various African countries. These problems include ethnic disputes, territorial claims, refugees, and an increasing anti-American and anti-West sentiment.

    The plot of this film is relatively straightforward. Navy SEAL Lt Waters, played by Bruce Willis (Unbreakable, Sixth Sense, Die Hard), in his usual of late (i.e. understated, unsmiling and slightly 'sad' looking) way, is placed in charge of a small squad of Navy SEALS (the US nautical equivalent of Special Forces). This squad's mission is to rescue an American doctor in Nigeria, Lena Hendricks (Italian actress Monica Bellucci) who, with a few other missionaries, has been treating innocent victims of the ongoing conflict following a military coup, in which the democratically elected President and his family were executed.

    Dr Hendricks and the missionaries are at real risk of being captured and executed or worse. Finding the good doctor is relatively easy for the well-equipped US Navy. However they didn't bank on her extreme reluctance to leave without her charges, the local Nigerian patients and helpers. After she has been evacuated, she convinces Lt Waters to defy his orders, and return for the locals. Of course, all 30 or so of them cannot fit on the helicopters and many of them then have to make a trek for the nearest national border, escorted of course by Lt Waters, Dr Hendricks and the other SEAL team members. That's when the trouble really starts. The Nigerian Army is not terribly pleased to see this group leave and sends a very large, and heavily armed, force in pursuit of the fleeing refugees and their American shepherds.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The main feature on this disc is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is of course 16x9 enhanced. It is an excellent transfer and really does justice to the original print.

    The image is sharp at all times, except during the intentionally modified 'television newsreel' footage (which is apparently a mix of images from real news and previous movies).

    Shadow detail is perfect at all times and is never overexposed. There was much very difficult material that had to be portrayed, such as showing very dark skin tones in very low light levels, for example at 21:10.. I thought the cinematography by Mauro Fiore (Training Day, Get Carter) was wonderful at all times and was nicely preserved on this transfer.

    There was no visible grain at any point, nor any low level noise.

    The colour was rich and captured the hues of the natural surrounds very well, whether the sand of the semi-desert areas, or the more prevalent forestry. There was no trace of oversaturation or colour bleed.

    There was slight edge enhancement used which was noticeable but never too distracting, such as at 15:15 and 39:09.

    I didn't see any positive or negative film artefacts which is understandable given that this film was only very recently released in theatres.

    There was no hint of aliasing which often rears its head in particularly sharp transfers.

    There was a vast range of subtitles available, ranging from Russian, Arabic, Bulgarian and Hindi through to Slovenian and Turkish. The annoying thing is that these subtitles could not be selected 'on the fly' but only through the disc menu.

    This was a dual layered disc and the layer change occurred at 65:28. It wasn't the best change I've ever seen, as it resulted in a freeze of about 1 second on my player and seemed to slightly truncate the last word of Bruce Willis' sentence.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Like the video, we are presented with a superb audio transfer on this disc. The main English audio track is Dolby Digital 5.1 at a bitrate of 448Kb/s. There are also audio tracks available in Czech, Hungarian, and Russian, all of which are in Dolby Digital 5.1. I sampled each of these and found them to blend the 'dubbed' voices quite well with the original background sound and music. Only the slight 'echo' gives away the fact that these aren't the originally recorded voices. Unlike the subtitles, the various soundtracks can be selected using the DVD remote while the film is playing.

    Dialogue is clear at all times, whether shouted or whispered, and appears to be in sync with the actor's lip movements.

    The music, primarily by Hans Zimmer (The Ring, Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor) and Aussie Lisa Gerrard (Gladiator, Ali) is just wonderful. It effectively blends in north and central African musical themes with 'big picture' lush orchestrations to produce a lovely and evocative soundtrack that never overpowers the film, but rather simply provides a rich layering to it. There is a heavy use of synthesizers and percussive sounds to produce very low frequency sound to accompany particularly tense or dramatic moments in the film.

    This is a soundtrack that aggressively uses the surround speakers almost continuously. The noises in the jungle are particularly effective as a blend of omni-directional ambient noises, e.g. 18:00, as well as occasional and very realistic directional cues. There is also a great feeling of 'depth' across the rear soundstage which I've never encountered in a film before. Everybody's favourite surround sound users, the helicopters, feature quite often in this soundtrack. For example, the rotor blade noise in all speakers around 31:28, and the helicopter flying overhead at 37:42. The rears are also used particularly effectively to reproduce the noise of thunder around 68:25.

    The LFE channel was well used, perhaps more for deep bass synthesizers and percussion, rather than actual sound effects, though it was also used to support the latter. While some sound effects such as the close-up sniper rifle shots had a great fullness to them, I did feel that some of the large explosions were a little thin sounding. Particularly good examples of deep bass occurred at 63:36. There was an almost constant very deep bass throughout the film which helped add dramatic tension and unease.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu Audio

    The main menu and sub menus were all presented at 1.78:1 and were 16x9 enhanced. They were all animated with scenes and music from the film.

Dolby Digital Trailer - City

Audio Commentary - Director

    The director, Antoine Fuqua, talks us through the entire film by himself. The film soundtrack is almost inaudible except during the frequent gaps in his commentary. He seemed to get excellent cooperation from the US military, even to the extent of the Captain of the USS Harry S Truman actually changing the course of his ship to provide the best lighting conditions for the cinematographer. Fuqua also talks quite a bit about the difficulties of filming on location in Hawaii and the efforts made to replicate the Nigerian landscape and foliage. He also provides insights into the background of many of the extras (who were themselves refugees in real life).

    Overall, I felt this was an entertaining listen if one was a fan of the film or of Fuqua himself. He didn't cover as much as I would have liked in regards to the technical elements, such as sound or visual effects or cinematography. There were also quite a few gaps in his commentary. This might have been better had it been a joint commentary between Fuqua and say the producer, or cinematographer.

Informational Subtitles - Africa Fact Track

   Switching this option on, via the menu, brings up pop-up windows of interesting background trivia quite frequently during the film. There is plenty of information on Africa, the conflicts, the cast and crew, the filmmaking, and even about Navy SEALs. I found this an excellent extra, though some of the pop-up windows did obscure up to 1/6th of the screen at times which meant this was best viewed on a repeat viewing of the film rather than the first time.

Featurette - Journey to Safety - Making of Tears of the Sun

   This was presented at 1.33:1 and with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound. It ran for 15:05.

    It consists primarily of interviews with Antoine Fuqua, Bruce Willis and other cast and crew members. They talk about the background of the film, tribal warfare in Africa, the difficulties of filming on location, and offer a little bit of praise for each other (as is common in these docos). Clips from the film are shown in 2.40:1 letterboxed.

Featurette - Voices of Africa

    This was presented at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

    This is a collection of 8 separate interviews with actual survivors of conflicts in various regions of Africa. There is the option to 'play all', or select individual interviews.

    I found these quite moving as they were very personal accounts of each individual's plight. Overall, quite an unusual and worthy extra and one I feel was put in at the behest of the Director who seems to genuinely want to cast the world's attention on the ongoing ethnic and political conflicts in Africa.

Deleted Scenes

    There are 8 deleted scenes which can be played individually, or using a 'play all' option. They are presented in 2.40:1 letterbox and in what sounds like mono.

    They are slightly unfinished looking clips, although this is perfectly acceptable in this context. Original audio is provided but in mono. It would have been great to have had a Director's commentary as an option, to explain why these clips were deleted or to provide other background information.

    The first scene shows a lot of background information that would have added a lot to the film and I really feel this should have been left in the final release. Others were scenes that were probably cut to improve the pacing of the film as well as shorten the overall runtime. A couple of scenes I guess were also left on the cutting room floor as they were a little gruesome without adding anything to the story.

    Another scene I felt they should not have cut was the briefing by the Nigerian Army commander to his troops, although this would have affected one of the plot 'surprises' in the eventual film. I felt this scene helped establish that the force in pursuit of the Americans was indeed a professional, well trained and motivated Army.

    Interestingly, I felt that many of these scenes added a slightly pro-African / African American flavour which might also help explain their deletion, perhaps to make it more palatable to general US audiences.

Notes - Interactive Map of Africa

    Presented in 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced but with no audio.

    This allows the user to move the cursor over a map of Nigeria and select a city which then opens a 1-page brief on that city focusing on elements such as conflict, refugees, notable events or people.

    Again, I feel that this is another avenue for Fuqua's worthy effort to expose the world to the ongoing but often forgotten violence in Africa.

Trailers

    An excellent collection (at least technically) of very recent cinema releases. These are all presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and are 16x9 enhanced. All are in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 except for Bad Boys II which is in 2.35:1. Some of these trailers would make great home theatre demonstration scenes in themselves.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 version has an extra commentary track (by the writers), and also appears to have additional trailers.

Summary

    An interesting film, though I felt that some of the 'gung ho' dialogue spoiled it at times, as did the silliness of having Captain Rhodes (played by Tom Skerritt) having all his satellite radio communications with the SEAL team while standing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier with aircraft and helicopters continuously landing or taking off! Surely there's a dedicated communications room deep within the ship that would and should be used...

    Putting aside this and a few other inaccuracies, Tears of the Sun was overall a reasonably entertaining film with some fairly good performances from Willis and some of the other cast, especially some of the actors portraying the refugees, many of whom had been real life refugees themselves. The film fortunately stayed clear of much sentimentality, and even romance between the Lt and the Doctor was pretty much only hinted at and was never given too much importance. This film was perhaps slightly 'deeper' than the usual war action movies, though not terribly deep by any means. It is admirable that Director Fuqua chose to highlight the plight of these often forgotten refugees, as well as the good and unselfish work that is still being done by medical volunteers and missionaries who place themselves at such high personal risk.

    The video and audio transfer on this DVD are exemplary and would be worthy of demonstration material for any good home theatre system.

    The extras are very good, and include some unusual elements, such as the Voices of Africa.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Satish Rajah (don't read my bio!)
Monday, December 29, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output
DisplaySony KV-XA34M31 80cm. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2801
SpeakersMain: Mission 753; Centre: Mission m7c2; rear: Mission 77DS; Sub: JBL PB10

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Comments (Add)
tears of the boredom - Ryan
Fact Track - Anonymous