As a basic pitch, the concept would have seemed solid to anyone in charge of greenlighting the project. Gooding plays Wolf, a paramilitary operative working for the United States government, who learns about a conspiracy of the president’s cabinet and Middle Eastern terrorists while on a mission designed to ensure his own death and keep the schemes a secret. Wolf defies the odds for survival and returns to the nation’s capital to confront his masters. The powers-that-be murder his fiancée as a warning, while they actively try to eliminate him. Channeling his pain and rage into a quest for revenge, as the DVD jacket proclaims, “He has a single mission. To expose the truth.” The formula is tested but still has enough room to customize with an original twist. With the implied promise of heavy action, and scenes taut with suspense and intrigue, the story should have been a straight path to box office bronze, if not gold, when handled properly.
Somewhere between the studio pitch and the final edit, some inexplicable decisions must have been made, resulting in the haphazard interweaving of times, places and characters, out-of-context montage sequences, and an almost total lack of action.
(There should be a hard and fast rule in Hollywood that by using the word “war” in the title and developing promotional materials around images of the main character holding a gun, more than thirty rounds should be fired in the course of the story.)
Perhaps the aspiration of the creators was to weave their story a la Hitchcock, revealing little or nothing about the real plot to the audience as a means of enhancing the tension, but the genius of Hitchcock was in having the audience identify with his main character, a person who had been thrust into a lethal confluence of circumstances, but who themselves were not aware of how they fit into them. We watch in anticipation of answers to the big questions – who, what and why? – that would be revealed to us as they were discovered by the main character. In Way of War, the writers have constructed a story in which we watch the main character move about in the aftermath of events that he was involved in, we are told that he knows the truth about them, but he refuses to let us in on the secret thus depriving us from connecting with any motivations driving Wolf.