The Way of War (2009) Movie Review

“The Way of War”, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and JK Simmons (Spider Man, Juno), seems, at first blush, to be another action movie about a rogue covert operative trying to stay alive while uncovering a government conspiracy at the highest levels. Unfortunately, if you examine closely, you’ll find that it doesn’t get any more original.

“The Way of War” probably looked really, really good on paper, because the potential is everywhere. Many of the characters have a hidden, but sadly untapped, depth. In trying to be original some things are explained in odd ways, like a cassette tape with the main character speaking to what seems to be his father, but end up just being distracting and confusing. A few subplots only deepen the confusion and make the main character more muddy and indefinable.

The opening credits run over quick cut scenes from the entire movie, beginning to end, with moody drum beats and electronic orchestral music that sounds, vaguely, Middle Eastern. The actual story begins with a press conference announcing the death of a terrorist called the Ace of Spades. The operation was carried out by three soldiers who all lost their lives in the process. Quickly, of course, you discover that one of the soldiers, David Wolfe (Gooding), has survived and returned to the states.

It’s so difficult to figure out who the characters are. Some of the main characters never even reveal their true names or roles. Within the first few minutes people are spouting quotes from The Art of War by Sun Tzu and giving impassioned, almost laughable speeches. Every scene is so overly dramatic and contrived that it all plays out methodically predictably.

The director attempted to make the movie more original by combining several ingredients. Instead of a pleasing blend, however, it turns muddy and frustratingly confusing.

First, there is almost no soundtrack. If the music isn’t actually integral to the story, like when a musician or jukebox is playing in the background, then it’s notably absent. During the most intense scenes the muted electronica from the opening plays while, like a silent movie, the action unfolds only visually. It doesn’t add to the drama, it makes the viewer wonder if he’s gone deaf and missed something important.

Second, the entire movie sporadically jumps through time. It’s not just flashbacks but a confusing blend of the near present and present that become very difficult to follow. Without the ability to stop the DVD and rewind certain scenes the average viewer may get completely lost during the first thirty minutes and never be able to find their way back.

Third, and most obvious flaw of all, is the casting. Right people, wrong roles, and for all of the most important characters. Cuba Gooding Jr. is never believable as the highly trained, soulless killer. The man wrinkles his brow, flashes that brilliant, and slightly awkward, smile and you don’t fear him. You just want to give him a hug. JK Simmons as Sergeant Mitchell is also way off target. Simmons is such an incredible actor and he has the right deadpan acceptance of his fate as a soldier but throws in cartoonish dramatic delivery mixed with speeches that sound like they were written by the Coen brothers. Simmons, like Gooding, still looks more like an irreverent father or goofy editor than a seasoned soldier on a suicide mission. Clarence Williams III (The Mod Squad, Twin Peaks) does the best job of all trying to overcome the stilted dialogue he’s given. However, even his role seems better suited for someone else, most of the time.

“The Way of War” DVD, itself, is devoid of any special features. So, if you like this movie, and there will be a few people who enjoy the visuals and speeches minus any relevant dialogue or plot, that’s all you get. No commentary, no featurettes, no bloopers. Hell, even a few alternate or deleted scenes might have filled in the major gaps. Maybe they should have listened to Sun Tzu a little more. “It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.”’

John Carter (director) / John Carter, Scott Schafer (screenplay)
CAST: Cuba Gooding Jr. … David Wolfe
J.K. Simmons … Sergeant Mitchell
Vernel Bagneris … Samir / Ace of Spades
Edrick Browne … Snow
Mark Joy … The President


Buy The Way of War on DVD



About Jodie Bass

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By day, I'm a humble computer systems administrator, now, but in my life I've worked as a sound engineer, a radio disk-jockey, a custodian, a short-order cook and a whole host of other fun and educational occupations. No, I'm not a million years old and I don't know everything. I am a happily married father of three lovely girls and my family is the most important thing in my life. So, movie reviews just seemed to come naturally. You can see the connection, can't you?

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  • Davy

    Captivating and original, the story kept me glued to the screen as the story unfolded. Lack of superfluous music and explosions added to the intense drama and made it all the more realistic. More movies like this that make you think instead of lowering the intelligence of the gene pool are needed. A must watch film for those that use more than one percent of their brain.

    • Taco Cancun

      OK, I’ll give it to you, you’re a brainiac. You’ve figured out this movie, so can you please tell me what the movie was about? A few questions; who’s passport was in the envelope, why did CW III go along with burning down the shop, how come the bullet landed in such a delicate spot on CG jr but didn’t do any damage and was able to be retrieved superficially and didn’t get infected, what was the leg thing, how come everyone could be tricked off a greyhound bus, but no one has any luggage in the hold or no one noticed the last three people didn’t get off the bus or the guy standing in the isle was holding a gun on one of those people or no one running the bus station came over and asked why they had 20+ customers that need to get to where they were going asking for their money and/or bus tickets…… and how come there are never any people around; either on the streets, or in the gym or at the bus station or coming into the convenience store, how come the men in black are such lousy shots?

    • Nausikaaltdbvi

      1 percent of nothing is err … how much ?

  • Davy

    Captivating and original, the story kept me glued to the screen as the story unfolded. Lack of superfluous music and explosions added to the intense drama and made it all the more realistic. More movies like this that make you think instead of lowering the intelligence of the gene pool are needed. A must watch film for those that use more than one percent of their brain.

    • Taco Cancun

      OK, I’ll give it to you, you’re a brainiac. You’ve figured out this movie, so can you please tell me what the movie was about? A few questions; who’s passport was in the envelope, why did CW III go along with burning down the shop, how come the bullet landed in such a delicate spot on CG jr but didn’t do any damage and was able to be retrieved superficially and didn’t get infected, what was the leg thing, how come everyone could be tricked off a greyhound bus, but no one has any luggage in the hold or no one noticed the last three people didn’t get off the bus or the guy standing in the isle was holding a gun on one of those people or no one running the bus station came over and asked why they had 20+ customers that need to get to where they were going asking for their money and/or bus tickets…… and how come there are never any people around; either on the streets, or in the gym or at the bus station or coming into the convenience store, how come the men in black are such lousy shots?

  • Kymberlie1012

    This was the worst and most confusing movie. When it was over my husband and I looked at each other like what happened??? What was the deal with the fiance? What was that “box” about? The Ace of Spades? And if the store owner was really “so worried” about his life why would he be the one to shoot the gun at the fight?!? So confusing! DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY! Luckily I only rented it. Because, if I had spent $20 on that crap I would be very upset!

  • Kymberlie1012

    This was the worst and most confusing movie. When it was over my husband and I looked at each other like what happened??? What was the deal with the fiance? What was that “box” about? The Ace of Spades? And if the store owner was really “so worried” about his life why would he be the one to shoot the gun at the fight?!? So confusing! DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY! Luckily I only rented it. Because, if I had spent $20 on that crap I would be very upset!

  • Leandro

    who plays the cover from “all along the watchtower”? It´s awesome and I can´t find it anywhere

  • Leandro

    who plays the cover from “all along the watchtower”? It´s awesome and I can´t find it anywhere

  • Nathan

    I thought this movie was great! However, I can see why people were often confused. There is alot of gaps that should have been filled, but I like the plot and I understood most of the movie. 7/10

  • Nathan

    I thought this movie was great! However, I can see why people were often confused. There is alot of gaps that should have been filled, but I like the plot and I understood most of the movie. 7/10

  • Anon

    Some plots of this movie were confusing. I did like the joke that JK Simmons gave though. :P

  • Carlos

    Bill howl n madd Perry – Blues dude i have been looking for it myself as i play guitar and would like to know if there is a tab out there good luck