The Art of War (2000)
I don’t really get how critics can say it’s a rehashing of cliched action movie themes like it’s a bad thing. What did they expect from this movie? That’s basically what I assumed it was going to be. It’s fairly pretentious to call it the art of war but let’s be honest, people LOVE James Bond and he’s in a movie called Octopussy. I’m just saying…
Solo hero-work is not uncommon in movies but at the turn of the millennium (a couple years on either side of 2000), there was a shift from classic spy thrillers to one-man army action blockbusters. I mentioned this before on The Avengers (1998) but we see a continuing shift towards someone with unstoppable karate skills, paramilitary training, surveillance, jumping off buildings ability, etc. etc. It’s not just “oh, he’s really well-trained” but a subtle or not so subtle move towards a superhuman hero. I thought this movie was a little more on the subtle side, it’s not like he can catch a bullet or shoot lasers out of his eyes but obviously there are stunts that Snipes pulls off that showcase his “exceptional-ness”. It is interesting if you stop and think that we’re to believe what the public thought during the Cold War, that he’s doing this dirty things for the greater good and that it’s necessary for someone to get their hands dirty to keep the rest of us safe.
To be honest, I think part of this movie banked on an American public’s misunderstanding of what the UN actually was and latent divisions between liberals/conservatives. If you don’t care much for politics and watch this in 2000 then the first 3/4 of the movie is very strange with the UN having a secret CIA-esque covert intelligence agency and paramilitary arm at work. Anne Archer and Donald Sutherland have roles that are the reverse of my expectations for their resumes but that was actually a little nice.
Not much intelligence in this one (pun intended) but it does showcase some nice spy thriller/action bits. That joke isn’t really fair, there is more of an effort to show the different sides of intelligence work in this movie than some of it’s peers. It’s hard to blame Snipes for wanting to show off his IRL fighting ability and kind of unique that the actor portraying a formidable opponent can actually back it up off-set.
So the plot didn’t always make sense, they didn’t humanize Shaw enough, it was fairly asexual, blah blah blah but the worst you can really say about it is that it was a well done piece of mediocrity. I’m not sure I’ll watch the next 2 sequels.
If you go in with low expectations, you won’t be disappointed and you may find it’s not a bad popcorn and soda action flick.