David W. Padrusch and Gabriel Gornell’s documentary, which was originally broadcast on The History Channel, attempts to transplant the lessons put forth by Sun Tzu in the 6th century BC text The Art of War into three extraordinary U.S. military endeavors: the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, the 1944 Allied landing at D-Day, and the 1968 Tet Offensive.
The film argues that the winning forces at Gettysburg and D-Day confirmed the military theories advocated by Sun Tzu, but the North Vietnamese forces that apparently lost the Tet Offensive also confirm Sun Tzu because the U.S. military that won the military campaign but lost the support of a U.S. public that perceived the battle to be a costly American debacle.
The film is packed with military historians who repeatedly try to link these battles to Sun Tzu’s text, through fortune cookie-style aphorisms (complete with a gong on the soundtrack). As for Sun Tzu himself, his life and military career is primarily depicted by a number of extras engaged in wuxia-style twirling warfare. Visually, “Art of War” is positively ghastly – for no clear reason, the film has a dreadful over-reliance on clumsy and ugly CGI effects that fail to hide the low-budget efforts to recreate major battles.
The resulting production is unfocused and often confusing, and anyone with a serious interest in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War will be left baffled by this chaotic approach to the subject.