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The art of war

Threat advisory: Elevated - Significant risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Wesley Snipes stars as Neil Shaw, an American agent with a secret unit of the United Nations which reinvents traditional manipulative tactics to coerce nations to reach common ground.

With the UN trying to reach a human rights accord with China, Shaw is assigned to keep electronic surveillance on China's UN ambassador, Wu (James Hong) and David Chan (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a well-connected Hong Kong billionaire with profitable properties in mainland China. Meanwhile, the discovery of a mysterious, abandoned ship containing the bodies of 500 dead Vietnamese refugees, looms large.

Tension mounts when Wu is killed and Chan injured by an unknown assassin at an important banquet for UN and Chinese officials. Despite the pleas of Julia Fong (Marie Matiko), a UN translator assigned to Wu who caught a glimpse of the assassin, Shaw is framed as the killer and taken into custody, only to be kidnapped by the Chinese triad, who are unmistakably linked to Wu's killing.

Shaw escapes captivity but is left to clear his good name with the help of his only ally, Julia Fong. All the while, Shaw is unable to reveal his secret ties to the UN in order to preserve the integrity of delicate international treaties.

Set amid a progressive business climate, The art of war cleverly infuses the intrigue of political conspiracy and intense martial arts action sequences into an ultra-cool action thriller.

Persons of interest

  • Wesley Snipes .... Neil Shaw
  • Donald Sutherland .... UN Secretary General Douglas Thomas
  • Maury Chaykin .... Agent Frank Capella
  • Anne Archer .... Eleanor Hooks
  • Marie Matiko .... Julia Fang
  • Michael Biehn .... Robert Bly
  • Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa .... David Chan
  • Liliana Komorowska .... Novak
  • James Hong .... Ambassador Wu
  • Paul Hopkins .... Ray
  • Glen Chin .... Ochai
  • Ron Yuan .... Ming
  • Bonnie Mak .... Anna
  • Uni Park .... Tina Chan
  • Fernando Chien .... Zeng Zi
  • Paul Wu .... Shades
  • Noël Burton .... Alex Wingate
  • Simon Barry .... Screenwriter
  • Kevin Bernhardt .... Screenwriter
  • Christian Duguay .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Official error: Douglas Thomas is an impossibility. The Secretary General of the United Nations is not, has never been and will never be an Anglo, let alone someone from the First World (ie Canada). The position is (unofficially) reserved for members of the Third World, eg Africa, the Middle East, southern Asia, South America. The First and Second Worlds (ie Europe, Russia, China, Japan, North America and Australasia) are all too powerful to hold a position that is supposed to be neutral.

Apart from that, The art of war is a great action mystery flick with heaps of shooting, bleeding, exploding, double dealing and running around. There's some kung fu (it doesn't matter which martial art they're using, it's all kung fu) which Wesley does well enough, but there's none of the glorious mastery that comes with Crouching tiger, hidden dragon, just some hard-core hitting. If you subtract The Matrix from The Tiger you'll get the right level for The Art.

Ummm... the plot is nice and twisty, with clues dropping in both on schedule and unannounced. The unannounced ones give you just enough to let you think that you might be able to play the game while the scheduled ones give you just enough to let you think that you might be able to win it. Ignore the dialogue (it is an action flick, after all, and the writers of the genre gave up long ago on action stars who could both hit and talk) but pay close attention to what people say. I am aware that that sounds a bit Zen but it's supposed to. The art of war is a title stolen from the world's most famous treatise on the subject (and, coincidentally, on the nature of the human beast) and in the 2500 years since Sun Tzu wrote it, it has yet to be improved upon. You should be aware, however, that the film has nothing to do with the book except a title, some quotes, and a vague application of chapter XIII (The use of spies).

Meanwhile, you've just learnt more about history than the flick will tell you, so you can put your brain back on autopilot.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Trailer
  • On set footage
  • Cast and crew interviews
  • Biographies

Security censorship classification

M (Medium level violence)

Surveillance time

117 minutes (1:57 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 19 October 2000
DVD rental: 16 April 2001
DVD retail: 16 May 2001
VHS retail: 16 May 2001
VHS retail: 14 November 2001

Cinema surveillance images

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