The Art Of War Review

The Film

The Art of War situates itself around a rather far-fetched plot - unofficial covert UN agents battle behind the scenes in order to aid official diplomatic aides. On the eve of a summit with China, A group of slaughtered Chinese refugees are found in a container in a New York harbour. Rumours spread that the murders were deliberate in order to strike a blow to the summit, but as the Chinese Ambassador Wu attempts to reveal the instigators of this sabotaged, he is assassinated. In true Mission: Impossible style, UN Agent Neil Shaw (Wesley Snipes), is blamed for the assassination, as he was assigned to monitor security of the summit and he is the only surviving member of his team. Forced underground, Shaw must solve the mystery of Wu’s assassination and clear his name in the process, using his skills as an agent and the help of a UN translator Julia Fang(Marie Matiko).

The Art Of War has so many problems it’s hard where to know where to start. The plot, style and pacing mirrors the first Mission: Impossible movie to such an extent that it becomes a pale imitation. You know you’re in trouble when the director’s (Christian Duguay) most memorable other films are Screamers and The Assignment. Duguay has an obvious visual talent – the locations are rendered very realistically through the over abundant use of crane shots and three hundred and sixty degree tracking, and the action sequences occasionally feel thrilling. Unfortunately, Duguay is so clearly obsessed with OTT visuals that it’s as if he has rushed through the shots with actors and dialogue in, because he can’t wait to for the visual scenes. The pacing to the film is dead and suffers badly at the mid-point of the film. The acting is stilted and tired, and as to what Donald Sutherland and Anne Archer are doing in this film is anyone’s guess. Another note, is the fact that the film is extremely gory for a routine action picture, and with little sex or swearing, this is the reason for its ‘18’ certificate. The film runs at just under two hours and feels heavily cut, and plot suffers due to this.

Acting wise, Wesley Snipes is capable enough as Neil Shaw, although he often struggles with the awful dialogue the script provides. It’s nice to see Michael Biehn back into action movies, considering his monopoly in the nineteen eighties, but even he isn’t used as much as he should be. Anne Archer usually is the supportive wife in these films (such as Patriot Games, Fatal Attraction) but in The Art Of War she Shaw’s hard as nails boss, which is a welcome change. Sutherland clearly has no desire to be in the film and considering the nice support he provides in films such as Outbreak and Space Cowboys it’s a shame he starred in the Art Of War.

The Art Of War is a forgettable actioner that offers nothing new and doesn’t even imitate others well. It’s not the worst film of last year, but it comes close. The most shameful aspect is that the film could have been much better.

Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, the picture is extremely crisp and beautifully rendered with nice striking colours and no blemishes. The opening sequences with their vivid colours show how nice the transfer is. Unfortunately, the film isn’t up to the quality of the transfer.

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound is an OK mix that is essentially a 2.0 stereo mix with most sound events occurring towards the centre. Dialogue is mumbled and incomprehensible at times, but this may be due to the director’s pre-occupation with visual style.

A trailer, and a Cast And Crew Biography which isn’t stated on the case and is merely one page of text detailing the major stars and crewmembers of the film. Nowadays, for a new film to contain only the trailer and a Cast And Crew Biography is shameful and is quite a shock.

To conclude, The Art Of War is a forgettable movie, presented on a forgettable disk whose only merit is a nice transfer. Unless you have seen the film before and are a fan, I suggest you avoid this movie until you have seen every other release of last year.

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