Lord of War
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Lord of War 2005

An arms dealer confronts the morality of his work as he is being chased by an Interpol agent...

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Imdb rating: 7.6

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Trailer Rating: Nicholas Cage really works well in some movies. This looks like it might be one of them. Guns and deceiving your signifigant other, Will there be another movie angling harder for the fratboy dollar come September? The answer to that question should be 'no'.
A remarkable, audacious, near-flawless piece of filmmaking, Lord of War may just be the first great film of the year. Lord of War takes a little known, underreported subject, the shadowy, unethical world of international arms dealers and delivers an satirical, polemical critique wrapped around an incisive character study. Lord of War also heralds writer/director Andrew Niccol's admission into the front rank of English-language filmmakers. In his debut film, Gattaca Niccol showed considerable promise. Gattaca explored the ethical, moral, and social ramifications of genetic engineering in an antiseptic, dystopian world and, to a lesser extent (for obvious reasons), the screenplay for The Truman Show, directed by Peter Weir and starring Jim Carrey as Truman (the script's darker, satirical edge was minimized due to Carrey's hoped-for participation).

After a bravura title sequence, which follows a bullet from manufacture in a munitions factory in Eastern Europe to the end user in a desperately poor, war-torn country in Africa, Lord of War introduces the audience to the central character, Yuri Orlov (Nicholas Cage), an international arms dealer standing in a village ruined by war. Lord of War then unfolds in flashback via confessional voice over narration, beginning 1982, first introducing us to a young, ambitious Orlov and his family. Yuri's father, it seems, has become what he pretended to be to enter the United States, a devout Jew. Pulling his younger brother Vitali (Jared Leto) into his plans, Yuri departs for Europe and the Middle East. At the Berlin Arms Fair, a rival arms dealer, Simon Weisz (Ian Holm) rebuffs Yuri's overtures. In Lebanon, Yuri finds more success (the United States military has left piles of unguarded weapons after a hast withdrawal). Yuri happily sells rifles and submachine guns by the kilo.

From there, Yuri's career takes an upward path into wealth and power. He uses his wealth to successfully seduce a teenage crush, Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan). He openly lies to her about his career, which she initially accepts without question. On the surface, Yuri is a respectable businessman. His parents know better. So does Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke), an Interpol agent who becomes Yuri's sometime nemesis. Fast-forward to 1991: Yuri greets the collapse of the Soviet Union happily. Yuri's uncle, a general in the Ukrainian army, becomes Yuri's new business partner, helping Yuri acquire military hardware from the newly liberated Ukraine (according to the film and the press notes, more than $32 billion dollars worth of military hardware was stolen). Yuri's business rival, Simon Weisz, appears in the Ukraine, hoping to benefit from the unused stockpiles of weapons. Valentine also makes an appearance, only to be frustrated once again.

Yuri's business dealings also him face-to-face with the arbitrary and capricious dictators that riddle the developing world. Andre Baptiste, Sr. (Eamonn Walker), the "president" of Liberia (he's modeled on the former dictator of Liberia, Charles Taylor), proves to be Yuri's best (and most insistent) customer, while also magnifying Yuri's worst impulses, calling Yuri on his ambivalence toward arms dealing (Yuri continually justifies his career with the suggestion that someone else would step into his place and by keeping himself at a distance from the use and effects of the weapons he sells).

All this, of course, leads inevitably to a crisis of conscience, fuelled by Yuri's encounters with Valentine and his wife's increasing suspicions about his career. If, however, audiences are expecting a traditional "rise-fall-redemption" narrative, they're likely to be disappointed. Niccol delivers something completely different and, ultimately, much more satisfying, a character study that leads into tragedy. If anything, Niccol appears to have been influenced by one of the few "true" masterpieces of the 1990s, Martin Scorcese's Goodfellas, in the structure that episodically spans several decades, an egocentric anti-hero as the central character, and voice over narration that functions as counterpoint, revealing the anti-hero's flaws, even as he's blissfully unaware of the disconnect between what he says and the reality around him.

Not surprisingly, with a charismatic, well-written character at its center, the other characters suffer in contrast, both in their respective character arcs (Ava and Vitali's especially) and their minimal, intermittent screen time. Simon Weisz seems to function primarily to deliver a key line about the need to choose sides, easy to do before the end of the Cold War (Weisz, it seems, is the rare arms dealer who structures his deals in line with his finely developed sense of ethics and justice). Vitali's character arc proves to be the most predictable and unsatisfying. Even with Yuri's egotism, the audience is expected to accept Yuri's decade-long inability to understand the reasons behind his brother's prolonged dissolution.

In a welcome return to form, Nicholas Cage gives a restrained, unaffected, unmannered performance, conveying Yuri's blissful amorality with seemingly effortless ease. Cage also delivers the voice over narration with a precise mix of knowing cynicism and unselfconscious humor, even when he's delivering exposition-heavy narration. Eamonn Walker deserves special mention for delivering a subtle, but nonetheless menacing, performance as the ruthless, capricious president of Liberia, Andre Baptiste, Sr. Bridget Moynahan struggles in an underwritten, undermotivated role. Ethan Hawke suffers from a similar problem: his character appears only intermittently and when he does, it's to deliver a heavy-handed sermon about the evils of arms dealing. As Vitali, Jared Leto has more to do with his role, credibly reflecting the inner turmoil Yuri should be undergoing (he doesn't).

Ultimately, Andrew Niccol's confident direction and near-brilliant writing ensure that Lord of War's flaws are minimal (and certainly forgivable), Even as Niccol delivers facts, history, and ideas into Lord of War he always adheres to universal standards for good storytelling, to entertain his audience first and enlighten them second. As Lord of War ends, the audience receives both, with the last shot bringing the audience full circle to the opening scene, showing us a lonely, tragic figure and a title card informing the audience that the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China are the world's chief arms exporters. These five countries are also the only permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

With the recent release of The Constant Gardener, a political thriller that tackles "Big Pharma" (multinational pharmaceutical companies that often put profits above lives), we may be seeing a resurgence of ambitious, politically themed filmmaking. Not surprisingly, both films share a visual style (i.e., the desaturated color palette first mainstreamed in Steven Soderbergh's Traffic) and similar locations (e.g., Kenya in The Constant Gardener and Liberia in Lord of War, one mired in seemingly insurmountable poverty exacerbated by the spread of the AIDS virus, the other mired in bloodshed and violence. Like The Constant Gardener, Lord of War was financed independently, with Nicholas Cage serving as producer.
I was overjoyed upon hearing about the return of moderation to RT. As many of you know, I took a sabbatical for a few months, then returned to find the trolls in full force on RT. I took refuge at the Axis and have enjoyed my stay, but I've missed the journal and the boards here. For now I'll split time between both.

So, without further ado, here's my first serious entry in months (that is, not about politics or cats).

Lord of War - Guns are bad, ummkay? This was a well-acted, montage-heavy piece with a lot to say, umm, err, to preach. It reminded me a lot of Blow, with maybe a little bit of Goodfellas mixed in, but not the better parts. Cage was alright. He's been better and plenty worse (groan - Con Air). Jared Leto gave a surprisingly good performance. I thought he was too busy with indie-rock mediocrity and seducing dead hegemons to really give his all to acting. He did alright here, albeit in a smaller role than I would have liked, and didn't have to lose a major appendage to do so. My biggest problem with this flick was the uneven pacing. It screeches to a halt sometimes, while at others it moves way too fast, making it one of the few films to seem overly ambitious and lazy at the same time. The nasty exclamation point came at the end with Cage giving a speech about the evil in men, proving yet again that directors should refrain from wearing their agenda on their sleeves whenever possible. 5/10

Mysterious Skin - I try to keep myself as unbiased as possible, but I cannot remove my own personal tastes from this movie. In fact, I knew this going in, having read the soundtrack and numerous posts/entries about Slowdive's presence within the film. In the days preceding it's opening, I called it "The Slowdive movie." In addition to my favorite dream-poppers, there was also a bit of Curve, an early Ride song, some Sigur Ros, and a solid score composed by Robin Guthrie, formerly of the Cocteau Twins, and some other guy I had never heard of. As I expected, I found myself following the music more than the film. I liked it, nearly loved it, but can't guarantee that it was the characters or storyline that led to my pleasant impression. It was well-done, and a great character study of how people with different backgrounds can react to the same events. Did I mention that the music is great? Go see it. 8/10

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - From what I understand, people are divided on this one based on whether they'd read the books or not. The people who know the books seem to generally like it (or so I gather), while the people who haven't find it to be utter crap. I've read and adored the books since childhood, as well as seen the BBC mini-series which I enjoyed very much. I figured I'd be with the first group, but, boy was I wrong. This movie sucked. I can understand why Douglas Adams virgins hate it so much. My mild entertainment came more as a result of my fond memories of the books, and the few scenes that visualize the words well. Trust me, they were few and far between. Aside from Alan Rickman's voice, the performances were atrocious! Zooey Deschanel is adorable, but I'm beginning to question her acting pedigree; Mos Def did absolutely nothing with his role, and Sam Rockwell did too much with his. If you really want to see this, rent the BBC series instead. 4/10

Trailers Shmailers: The Jarhead trailer looked great on the big screen. I'm really looking forward to this. Another Nic Cage movie, The Weatherman, could be decent, but could be another The Family Man. Saw 2 looks like more of the first, but probably twice as crappy (and I was among the few who somewhat liked the first). I forget the rest.
I wasn't sure I'd like this movie. I can't say I'd get real excited about a gun runner...whether they lived or died. And I was right. However, the movie isn't whether you like or don't like the main character. There's a deeper message here and the movie is worth seeing.
I saw Lord of War last night and was pleasantly surprised! Although when I left the theater I was mad at Nicholas Cages' character Yuri Orlov...you will see why! Anyways it is about an arms dealer who sells his arms, many times, to these poor, war-torn countries who use the weapons to kill more people.



I thought the movie was excellent and it shows you perhaps what some of these dealers really have to go through. I'll give it a 7/10


A film with a message, that's for sure. I was really looking forward to Lord of War, and although it didn't pack the punch I thought it would, it was still very good. The screenplay was excellent and very intelligent, the acting superb and the cinematography provoking. I think it could have been structured in a more compelling manner, but I'm not complaining in the least.
I thought this was an interesting commentary on the way the world is today and how rediculous a lot of the violence is, and how many people are hypocrites. It was very well narrarrated and came off as a dark comedy. Nicholas Cage did a great job, even if there isn't any redemption in the end. Human condition is a fragile thing, they blew it apart with an AK-47. It was also quite educational.
Lord of War (2005): 8/10



This is by far one of my top 5 for this year and it makes me happy to see a film like this be released, one that really digs deep as long as you take the time to see it.
it's been a while since my last post (i've been very busy with university and "studying" ;)) but i felt i needed to speak up given the recent buzz over "lord of war". i am totally unclear as to why people are so split on this film. personally, i enjoyed it a lot and was glad it wasn't preachy and obvious (as some people have claimed it to be). i suspect, had "constant gardener" not come out first, this film would be getting a lot more respect. i should mention that "lord of war" is very different from "constant gardener" in many ways but does maintain some of the good points. it is an "issue" movie about gun trafficking and the culture of violence in the world and (obviously) it's against the way the west supplies weapons to africa, the middle east and parts of asia. i was very impressed with nicolas cage, an actor i usually have a hard time enjoying, and jared leto is amazing as always. i would definitely encourage people to go see this film and hopefully shut up the jaded critics.