Most helpful positive review
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Overlooked and underrated
on August 17, 2003
"The Art of War" was a pleasant surprise when I rented it. Once you get past the admitedly far-fetched premise that the UN has its own covert ops teams, it emerges as a spy movie that remembers how to be a spy movie. Rather than going the James Bond/Mission Impossible route of pitting a super-human spy agaisnt a supervillian, "The Art of War" serves up old-fashioned twists, turns, secrets, lies, betrayals, and assassination attempts.
Another nice thing about this movie is that it seems to understand the nature of post-Cold War politics. Nations now clash with treaties, trade agreements, and capitalist aspirations. By addressing issues such as the WTO, human traficking, and China's emerging status as an economic superpower, I got the distinct impression that the screenwriters actually read the newspaper. Ultimately, the plot doesn't quite hold up, but it's an admirable effort.
Snipes does a great job, never lightening the tone by playing to the cheap seats. By playing it straight he makes the film that much more believable. His fight scenes--including the end shootout feating slow-mo bullet-time--are both thrilling and plausible in a way that "The Matrix's" cgi-enhanced action can't manage.
Finally, the film just *looks* great. Director of Photography Pierre Gill plausibly passes off a lot of Canadian locations as Hong Kong and New York. He gives these cities a glossy sheen, a convincing grittiness, and a neon readiance, depending upon the scene.
All in all, I think if the movie had featured Tom Cruise or Keanu Reeves it would have been much better received. Too bad, since Snipes blows both of them off the screen. This one is definitely worth a look.