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The Way of War(2008)
Sent overseas to kill a ruthless terrorist, special ops assassin David Wolfe (Cuba Gooding Jr.) uncovers a secret that puts his own life in jeopardy: a nefarious conspiracy that involves the highest levels of the U.S. government. Now, Wolfe must use all his skills to expose the truth before the powers that be snuff out his life.
For more about The Way of War and the The Way of War Blu-ray release, see the The Way of War Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on January 21, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Director: John Carter
» See full cast & crew
The Way of War Blu-ray Review
"The Way of Confusion" would be a better title.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, January 21, 2010
Do you think the Academy ever considered the idea of asking for an Oscar back if an actor is proven unworthy in the years to follow? Time and time again we witness the self-destructive tendency of post-award failure. From Halle Berry to Nicholas Cage, some actors and actresses seem to view the winning of a golden statue as a vehicle for a higher paycheck rather than an honorable distinction worthy of preservation (Catwoman anyone?). In the case of Cuba Gooding Jr., we run into the same scenario where a promising young actor hits the pinnacle of Hollywood success, and rapidly diminishes the respect of his peers through films such as Chill Factor, Rat Race, Snow Dogs, and Radio. Considering the promising career he demonstrated up until his 1996 "Best Supporting Actor" win, I assumed the next decade would be his for the taking. Now that 13 years have passed, Cuba Gooding Jr. seems more likely to land a role in the next Steven Seagal outing, rather than work with the likes of Steven Spielberg or Steven Soderbergh.
Upon returning to United States soil after a botched paramilitary operation in the Middle East, David Wolfe (Cuba Gooding Jr.) discovers he's wanted by the United States government for his involvement in the assassination of a terrorist known as the "Ace of Spades". On the run from multiple federal agents, Wolfe displays both rage and bewilderment by the treacherous actions of the government officials who sent him on the original mission, and now want him dead. Hoping to find answers to his questions, he searches Washington D.C. for the men responsible for his predicament, and unleashes a downpour of suffering in the process. Aside from the death of his wife (at the hands of federal agents) and multiple assassination attempts on his life, the government has refused to pay him for the recent mission, hoping he'd simply disappear. When he doesn't disappear, both sides engage in a game of "name that quote" and attempt to out-riddle one another with some of the most absurd dialog ever heard.
In case you couldn't tell, there's a hint of sarcasm at the end of the synopsis, which gets at the core failure of the entire production. In a nutshell, there are about thirty minutes of actual plot in The Way of War, and a full hour of never-ending expositions that drag on an on. Never in my lifetime have I heard so many statements that sound profound as they roll off the tongue, but lack any relevance to the context in which they're delivered. As a result, you'll sit through five-minute analogies, quotes, stories, and riddles that all collectively end with a thud. I kept waiting for something to finally make sense within the actual arch of the story, but it eventually seemed the writers were just as confused as I was. It's as if they ran out of a core plotline after ten minutes of writing, and spent the rest of their time brainstorming anecdotes to toss in as filler.
The second major problem with the production is a horribly confusing structure, which makes the muddled dialogue even more difficult to decipher. One of the keys to understanding the eventual "Ah-ha!" moment at the end of the film is paying close attention to a news conference at the beginning. Since you don't know that at the time, the revelations in that sequence are long forgotten by the time they become important. Further complicating matters, the film quickly demonstrates a desire to skip between timelines that occur prior to the mission, during the mission, and upon Wolfe's return from the Middle East. Unfortunately, there's no differentiation between the scenes before and after the mission (it's pretty simple to figure out which scenes occur during the mission), so I was left scratching my head regarding his relationship with the wife/girlfriend character. It eventually becomes increasingly clear toward the end of the film, but I was already so frustrated with my state of confusion up to that point, I simply didn't care.
From an acting standpoint, I never bought into the idea of Cuba Gooding Jr. as a trained covert assassin. Part of the problem lies in his deadpan depiction of a various emotional states, and part lies in the complete lack of a professional advisor during the military scenes. Two of the most hilarious sequences in the film depict the "good guys" ambushed by a random group of Middle Eastern thugs. In the first scene, two of the soldiers realize their buddy was just shot, and instinctively turn around in the middle of a wide open room to shoot back. Throughout the duration of the firefight, the two commandos continue standing unprotected, rather than moving two feet to take cover behind a wall. As if that wasn't bad enough, a later scene shows one of the remaining American soldiers take a bullet as he stands in a doorway. He falls into the room with Wolfe, who could easily take cover in the doorway to fire back. Instead, Cuba runs into the adjacent room where his friend was just shot and begins exchanging fire with enemy fighters. That might have been acceptable in the early days of Stallone or Schwarzenegger, but we expect a little more from military cinema these days.
The Way of War Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 24Mbps), The Way of War looks to be an accurate representation of the source material, which isn't always a good thing. During the initial ten minutes of the film, I was blown away by the presence of crisp fine object detail, which clearly establishes false hope. Before long, detail began showing traces of crumbling proficiency, as one scene after another seemed increasingly marginal. Along with the inconsistency in detail, the coloring of the film undergoes wild swings between dominant reds and color-sapping greens. The choices in the palette aren't necessarily off-putting given the style of the film itself, but they don't exactly make this a visual feast. Lastly, I was impressed with black levels and contrast throughout the majority of the feature, but there's one scene at the 34:20 mark that's downright awful (when Wolfe discovers his wife's dead body). In that particular sequence, you can barely make out a drop of detail in the overly dark room, draping the entire room in a sea of black.
In the end, The Way of War can't seem to decide if it wants to look spectacular or off-putting. Every time you begin to fall in love with the transfer, it removes the mask of proficiency to reveal the ugliness underneath.
The Way of War Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Considering The Way of War relies heavily on dialog to further the story (what little there may be), the lossless audio track should strive to deliver those elements with abundant clarity. Instead, most listeners will struggle to decide which was worse; the absurdity of the script, or the lack of clear dialogue. To give you an idea of what I'm referring to, there's a scene toward the end of the film when Wolfe faces a government official, who spouts off a nonsensical quote as he stands up from the ground. I desperately wanted to use the quote in my review (to demonstrate how outrageous the lines can get), but after listening to it five times, I still couldn't make out a portion in the middle. Moments like that seem to be par for the course (rather than the exception), making it just as hard to decipher the lines as it is to interpret the meaning. Part of the blame can be attributed to the soft-spoken nature of Cuba Gooding Jr. and the entire ensemble cast, but it remains the responsibility of the audio track to accurately reproduce ideal volume levels. Moving away from the dialog, the other elements in the mix fair much better, with excellent clarity and sufficient volume. There isn't much surround separation to speak of, but be prepared for several excellent musical entries that take full advantage of every speaker in the room.
The Way of War Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are no supplements included on the disc.
The Way of War Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Have you ever unknowingly ventured into your local cinema and watched an awful film? As you sit there hoping the film will improve, you witness a gradual flow of people leaving the theater as they reach their breaking point, yet you remain firmly planted in your seat, unwilling to cut your losses and run with the other cowards. Time marches on, and you soon find yourself sitting alone with a tub of popcorn as your only friend, waiting for the epic conclusion that's sure to make the entire experience worthwhile. Seconds tick slowly by, but the moment of revelation never comes. As the screen goes black and the credits roll, you shed a tear (not of sadness, but simply an emotional display of anger), turn to the exit sign and vow to never make the same mistake. That, ladies and gentlemen, is The Way of War.
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