Tears of the Sun (Blu-ray) (2003)

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Released 8-Nov-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Audio Commentary-Antoine Fuqua (Director)
Audio Commentary-Alex Lasker (Writer), Patrick Cirillo (Writer)
Film Factoids
Deleted Scenes
Trailer-The Da Vinci Code
Trailer-Kung Fu Hustle
Trailer-Stealth
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 120:55
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Antoine Fuqua
Studio
Distributor
Revolution
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Bruce Willis
Monica Belucci
Cole Hauser
Tom Skerritt
Case Amaray Variant
RPI ? Music Hans Zimmer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/16 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch
Arabic
Czech
Greek
Hindi
Hungarian
Polish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
English Information
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

Bruce Willis apparently agreed to do a fourth Die Hard film if the powers that be would allow him to use the proposed subtitle, Tears Of The Sun, for one of his own projects. Die Soft, as I like to call it, turned into an atrocity against everyone who remembers when a certain number of films were made with adults in mind (or perhaps we did not have this preoccupation with putting our children into glass sterile chambers, in a metaphorical sense). The film that Tears Of The Sun turned out to be a failure at the box office, estimated to have cost seventy million dollars just to shoot and grossing slightly less than forty-three and a half million domestically. Perhaps part of the reason for the disappointing box office take is that the film had a little trouble making up its mind what it wanted to be.

The film begins with a summary of yet another civil war and genocide-in-progress, this one taking place in Nigeria. The Furlani tribe have risen up, deposed the democratically-elected President, and are seemingly intent on murdering every member of the Ibo tribe that they can lay their hands on. Lieutenant A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis) and his squad are sent into Nigeria to retrieve an American doctor by the name of Lena Fiore Kendricks (Monica Bellucci). If a trio of Americans among her staff wish to come, then the team's orders are to bring them, too. Long story short, Kendricks refuses to leave without a rather large party of locals who are fleeing the murderous army that has deposed the President. As Waters and his men bring their quarry ever closer to safety in Cameroon, a large portion of the rebel army pursues them in a fashion that leads Waters and his men to conclude that at least one of the people they are escorting must be pretty important.

Not helping matters any is that the finale descends into a by-the-numbers action sequence in which Waters and his unit compete with the rebel battalion to see who can fire the most rounds at each other without scoring too many points for accuracy. Roger Ebert has written that he sensed a certain amount of input from producers, studio executives, story consultants, and other such types who felt it their duty to dumb the film down with a conventional action climax. I must paraphrase him here because after watching it for myself a few times, I can only strongly agree with him. If it were not for a stellar performance from Bruce Willis in which he makes the kind of dialogue that would induce uproarious laughter coming from many another actor seem credible, Tears Of The Sun would have little, if anything, to recommend it. The mind boggles at what the film might have ended with if the conventional action trappings had not got in the way.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed Tears Of The Sun as entertainment, even though the fact track and commentaries make it clear Fuqua and Willis had something higher in mind. It also makes an interesting choice to be among the first films released on Blu-ray Disc within Region B, in light of its failure at the box office. Apparently, a lengthier Director's Cut was released in the US on DVD, but this version has yet to grace the Blu-ray format.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window.

The foreground of this transfer is sharp. Little details that are impossible to resolve in SD, particularly in the satellite display that keeps Waters and his men aware of the rebel battalion following them, leap out of the screen. In particular, I had forgotten how revolting the severed-breasts shots about sixty-one minutes into the film had been. However, a lot of backgrounds in wide shots have a murky, grainy sort of look. The shadow detail in the small number of sequences that take place at night is very good, and there is no low-level noise.

The colours of the transfer are quite limited but amazingly vivid. As one might expect of a film set in the African jungle, greens and browns are dominant. The greens are vivid and deep, the browns are well-textured, and flesh tones are accurate. No bleeding or misregistration is evident.

Reports have it that the Region A disc features a transfer compressed in MPEG-2. If this transfer uses the same codec, it explains the murky, grainy look of backgrounds to some degree. Not helping matters in that respect is the anamorphic photography in a very difficult environment with rain pouring in many a shot. So long as one is only looking at the foreground, this is an excellent transfer and the compression seems very transparent. Film-to-video artefacts were absent. Film artefacts consisted of small black and white marks on the image that were minor in frequency.

Subtitles are offered in English and English for the Hearing Impaired. The latter are presented in an attractive white font with solid black backgrounds, and are mildly truncated from the spoken dialogue.

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

Audio

Four soundtracks are presented on this disc. The first, and default, is a Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation of the original English dialogue. The second is a Linear PCM 5.1 version of the original English dialogue. Two audio commentaries in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo are also included.

As has been the case on every disc I have seen to date with Dolby Digital and Linear PCM options, the latter proved more open, with greater separation between the elements.

The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, at least within the limits of Bruce Willis' mild mumble. The SEALs utter a lot of words below their breath, and intelligibility is frequently a problem for them. More important dialogue such as Willis' exchanges with Bellucci are more easily understood. No problems were noted with audio sync.

The music in the film consists of a score by Hans Zimmer. At times, it really begins to resemble the Gladiator soundtrack, especially during the climactic firefight. At other times, percussion and tribal beats form a constant motif. The music suits the onscreen action well, in spite of giving a feeling of having heard this before.

The surround channels are used aggressively but inconsistently. During the climactic gun battle, bullets whiz constantly through the surround channels, providing a real feel of being there. If the entire soundtrack had been this immersive, then it would get a five star rating overall in spite of the aforementioned issues with dialogue intelligibility, which were more by the director's design in the first place. However, during the more dialogue-driven parts of the film, the sound field collapses into stereo. The occasional environmental effect, such as rain or the rustle of leaves, can be heard occasionally during the exposition sequences, but during the first twenty minutes of the film in particular, one can almost be forgiven for thinking this was a film from the early 1990s with a mediocre remix.

The subwoofer is used a little more consistently to support the music or the violence of battle and other such effects. It is well-integrated with the rest of the soundtrack and does not call undue attention to itself.

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

Extras

A small amount of extras grace this disc.

Menu

The Top Menu is heavily animated, and features a Linear PCM 2.0 soundtrack. The Pop-Up Menu features audio accompaniment that tends to get distracting, but both menus are fairly straightforward to navigate.

Audio Commentary - Antoine Fuqua (Director)

Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Fuqua talks very extensively and dryly about the influences that went into the production. The references to Apocalypse Now in my review are not just hyperbole, as Fuqua makes comparisons between Willis' character and one Colonel Kurtz. This only brings to mind more questions about what the makers had in mind compared to what the producers and studio heads ordered. The commentary track itself is a little on the dull side, not helped by the lack of any additional participants to keep the momentum going.

Audio Commentary - Alex Lasker (Writer), Patrick Cirillo (Writer)

Titled Writers' Observations in the menus, which also states that the commentary only runs for sixteen minutes and forty-six seconds. Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Both audio commentaries are presented at a much lower volume than the Linear PCM 5.1 soundtrack. The observations made in this soundtrack are quite interesting, making it a shame that they could not get the writers to sit down and talk for the rest of the running length.

Fact Track

The fifteenth subtitle track on the disc is a graphical track with colour-coded backgrounds and text explaining various facts about the actors, the place the film is set in, and other such tidbits. It is worth looking at for those who want to know what those hand signals frequently used by soldiers in films actually mean.

Deleted Scenes

A collection of deleted scenes presented as a tiny window in the centre of the screen that is 480I and looks like a fifth-generation VHS copy. As a reminder of what I wanted to leave behind on previous formats, these are awesome.

Trailer - The Da Vinci Code

Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, in high definition, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. For two minutes and twenty-one seconds, the trailer manages to make the film seem a lot more compelling than it really is.

Trailer - Kung Fu Hustle

Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, in high definition, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, this one minute and forty-four second trailer gives a good idea of the hilarity of the film.

Trailer - Stealth

Presented in a 2.00:1 aspect ratio, in high definition, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Two minutes and two seconds of banality that makes its inclusion here quite a curious choice.

R4 vs R1

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

The Region A version of this disc misses out on;

The Region B version of this disc misses out on;

I think we can call this one fairly even.

Summary

Tears Of The Sun seems as much in conflict with itself as the country it is set in. The moneymen seemed intent on selling it as Die Hard meets Hotel Rwanda, but the first ninety or so minutes strongly suggest that director Antoine Fuqua and star Bruce Willis thought they were making something along the lines of Apocalypse Now. It does have its moments, and it even manages to set the sort of mood such a story demands, but the final quarter of the film just makes one wonder what on Earth just happened. It is not that the film is bad, per se, but the storyteller in me continually asks if that was honestly the best final act they could come up with.

The video transfer is excellent.

The audio transfer is good.

The extras are small in number, but their quality is good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSharp AQUOS BD-HP20X, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic Viera TH-42PZ700A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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