Uh, the situation is not easy either for the film we’re discussing today or for me.
How to stay objective in a review of a film from which you have great expectations, simply because it’s made based on one of your favorite books?
But, what must be done, is not hard. 🙂
Let’s dive into the film version of the book “Way of the Peaceful Warrior”, named “Peaceful Warrior”.
As in the literary version, young university student Dan starts his college life. However, he is not at peace, constantly haunted by nightmares. The latest nightmare (in which he dreams that he had an awkward fall during practice and that his legs shattered into pieces, swept up by a janitor whose shoes are the only thing visible) disturbs him so much that he feels the need to leave his dorm room (and the lovely girl/coed warming his bed) to go out for a run to clear his mind. Feeling thirsty, he enters a local gas station and there meets an eccentric gray-haired worker wearing the same shoes as the janitor from his nightmare! Although confused by everything, young Dan buys a drink and leaves the gas station. However, “something” makes him turn around, and he then sees the gray-haired worker now standing on the roof of the gas station, even though he was just on the ground floor a few seconds ago.
That was the night Dan met the mysterious man named Socrates.
And his life from that moment will never be the same.
Before you continue reading this review, my friendly advice is to first read the book (you can also read my review of it), to get a better impression of everything, and even the significance this book holds for me. 🙂
And now, some impressions about the film itself.
“Peaceful Warrior”, in itself, is not bad at all. If you haven’t read the book, it’s quite likely that you’ll genuinely enjoy this inspirational-motivational film, hear a lot of wise thoughts, and probably reflect a bit on your own life.
The problem may arise if you have first read the book and then turned to the film.
Then, you get the impression that the film is, at best, solid. The reason for this is that much has been left untold, and the potential of the film has not been fully utilized.
You’ll constantly feel that the film lacks that “something” that the book possesses, which was sorely needed in the film. And had the film had that “something,” it probably would have become an instant classic of cinematic history.
Let me explain a bit…
The book exudes a sense of mystique (or shall we say magical moments), where you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not, whether Dan is actually experiencing adventures with Socrates, or just imagining them. The film also flirts with these “supernatural” moments but simultaneously tries to give them a kind of “undefined” dose of reality. For those who haven’t read the book, these are intriguing details, but for those who have, such scenes feel somewhat lackluster.
“Peaceful Warrior” does not follow the book’s plot entirely. The film ends at the period when Dan successfully recovers from a traffic accident and shattered leg and wins a competition to the ovation of the audience. And that’s where the film ends! This was so surprising that even my sarcastic and all-knowing subconscious was left speechless (“…really, even I was surprised, I have no sarcastic comment for this” – note from the subconscious). The key details of the book begin precisely from that moment, when Dan faces the greatest challenges on his path of transformation! This is the period when he undergoes Socrates’ trials and tests, meets some very important people, goes through a period of memory loss, and many years later, faces the ultimate test on the brink of life and death, which finally opens his eyes to the true meaning of life!
In the film, more attention seems to be given to Dan’s friends from the gym than to Joy. In the film, Joy, a girl who matches Socrates in wisdom, likes to jog around the campus and harbors respect and affection for Dan, who slowly falls in love with her. Unlike in the film, where Joy has a purely episodic role, in the book her role and scenes are of enormous importance to Dan (our hero doesn’t just fall in love with her, he goes completely crazy in her presence due to infatuation, and she is not immune to his charm either). The moments she spends with Dan and Socrates, the running scenes through nature, her occasional (unexpected) appearances, all have great significance for Dan.
Many wise thoughts and conversations that appear in the first part of the book seem to have been deliberately omitted (and these are some thoughts that are, at least in my opinion, crucial for understanding Socrates and his view of the world).
And so on and so forth.
As for the acting itself, my impressions are mixed. The actor who plays Dan Millman did his job quite well and I have no complaints.
My “problem” arises with Socrates. When I first read the novel (at that time, I was not aware of the film), my first thought for Socrates was: “If there were a film version of this book, Socrates could only be played by Nick Nolte.” You can imagine my excitement when I found out that he did play Socrates in the film version. And then I watched the film…and remained with mixed feelings. Nolte’s version of Socrates isn’t bad, per se, but, to be honest, it’s not what I had hoped for. Yes, his Socrates is full of wisdom and charm, but it lacks that dose of mystique and eccentricity that characterizes the literary Socrates. Nolte’s Socrates is much more measured, and more like someone who simply has life experience he wants to share with others. But, the Socrates from the book, in addition to his life experience, has something more important, that “mystical” experience, knowledge that changes… better said, shakes and shocks one’s view of the world. All this is present in the film’s Socrates, but to a much lesser extent. Considering the eccentricity of actor Nick Nolte, I was quite confident that he could faithfully convey the spirit of Socrates from the book. As I said, his Socrates isn’t bad, but still… I felt a slight disappointment.
And Joy appears so rarely that I couldn’t form a proper impression of the actress herself.
The music and visual aspect are quite fine. Standard, so to speak.
Reading this review, someone might think this is a bad film. Far from it! “Peaceful Warrior” is a wonderful film that everyone should watch at least once in their life (or, in my case, five or six times 😁). Time will fly by with this film, and you’ll be filled with positive impressions.
But this honest review (like all the previous ones) comes from the heart of someone for whom the book “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” holds a special value and significance (which I cannot even describe properly in words), and who simply wished that the film would fully convey the beauty, importance, and messages of the book.
Perhaps in the future, a remake will be made (this book truly deserves it), although a mini-series might do the job better (here’s an opportunity for Netflix or HBO). And I think that would be a perfect hit.
That’s all from me. 🙂
And you, dear reader, what are your impressions of the film “Peaceful Warrior”? 🙂
(Originally reviewed: 04/01/2020)
IMDb | Rotten Tomatoes | Metacritic
Release date: 2006
Runtime: 120 minutes