I knew I was guaranteed excitement and explosions with Bruce Willis involved in a war\action flick, but I wasn’t prepared for his outstanding performance, a huge strong cast alongside him and a punishing film which highlights the pain and genocide that Africa struggles with year after year.
Antoine Fuqua directs in epic style, with fantastic backdrops, big camera sweeps and hugely powerful scenes. He shows again that he can more than ably deliver the quality and cinematic style that he did with Training Day. The movie is powerful and compelling and beautifully filmed.
Willis had hold of this story from 1995 and it seems a passionate piece for him, and I find that quite amazing that not only can he give it up so easily to a new Director, but that he also produces such a restrained and controlled performance. This really shows his maturity as an actor and producer.
It’s in front of the screen that he really excels though, his performance in the earlier part of the movie reflects a controlled and strong soldier. Possibly his best movie to date. The actors around him in his squad are a perfect pick, apart from a slight tendency to facially overact from Eamonn Walker, they exude the qualities of a close knit team of professional soldiers. The authenticity is not just with their interaction together but also with their equipment, their use of weapons and tactics, nothing happens throughout the movie to make you doubt who they are portraying.
However all this is secondary to the story they are pulled into, that of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and the sheer evil and inhumanity of the acts of violence against the people of Africa by the people of Africa. It draws your eyes to the plight that millions of Africans are facing year after year in different countries, and the harrowing individual acts that are carried out for the most pointless of reasons.
There are some moments that lean towards Hollywood but that’s all they do, before they go too far and bend the dramatic storyline away from the more believable the scene comes right back on track. In fact there are scenes that are deliberately non-Hollywood, and from what the Director and Willis have said, they wanted to keep it that way.
The DVD itself is excellent, despite a lacklustre commentary from the Director which focuses far too much on politics, the African situation and the US Armed Forces, the DVD boasts some interesting features. The African Facts are an interesting addition to the movie and pop-up a short piece of text describing a fact about the current scene, and they come thick and fast providing more movie information than the commentary itself.
A series of interviews with some of the African cast is quite revealing. For authenticity they actually flew Africans across to Hawaii, the filming location, and many of these actors and people had experienced the harsh side of the films storyline. In short interviews they reveal their story, some extremely harrowing.
Then there are the deleted scenes, which for once are really informative and expand on the story, as well as showing some scenes that were deemed just too much for the movie but continue to show the acts of atrocity.
However the DVD does excel in the educational aspects, alongside the interviews is an interactive map of Africa, giving history and information on each country.
Overall this package is excellent. I would give the movie almost full marks on it’s own, but the extras just push this to the top for me. A harrowing, gritty and truthful movie that pulls no punches, with excellent believable performances from Willis and his team, and a fantastic performance by Monica Bellucci, beautiful despite the amount of mud thrown at her.