Poorly received on its theatrical release, The Art of War is a film which deserves a second look. Plot-wise it's a routinely complicated thriller full of double-crosses and sudden shifts of perspective, as Wesley Snipes, secret fixer for the UN, tries to find out who killed the Chinese Ambassador to stop a trade pact and what it is that interpreter Marie Matiko knows that means people are trying to kill her. There are good performances here--Donald Sutherland as a Secretary General who takes good care not to know what is done in the name of peace, Anne Archer as Snipes' power-dressed controller, and Maury Chaykin as a world-weary FBI man who finds himself dragged around New York in Snipes' high-speed wake--but what is memorable is the look of the film. Presenting a New York of building sites and mirrored apartment buildings and rain on glass in twilight, contemporary techno-noir has never been quite so coherently imagined and set.
On the DVD: This is a film which comes into its own in widescreen and on DVD simply because its visual aspect is most of the point. This disc is not generous with features, simply providing scene access and the theatrical trailer, which makes rather more reference to Sun Tzu's classic of military strategy than the film ever bothers to. However, its combination of Dolby Sound and 2.35:1 widescreen ratio plays to the movie's strengths. --Roz Kaveney