Lord of War (2005)
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Review Date: December 20, 2005
Director: Andrew Niccol
Writer: Andrew Niccol
Producers: Philippe Rousselet, Andrew Niccol
Nicolas Cage as Yuri
Jared Leto as Vitaly
Bridget Moynahan as Ava
A Ukranian-American is bored with his life in New York and decides that a great way to make some real money in this world is to trade guns for a living. Convincing his younger brother to join him in his newfound profession, the man quickly becomes an expert in the field, trading guns all over the world and meeting many of its nastiest leaders. Ultimately though, the dark nature of his business rears its ugly head.
I like movies like this. Films that feature a narrator who provides the audience with the low-down on a part of the world, part of a profession or part of a person’s private life that we would otherwise, never be privy. In this case, the industry is the world trade of arms – guns specifically – featuring Nicolas Cage as the narrator in question and the story, an all-inclusive ditty about the ins-and-outs of what makes up a gun-runner, starting from his humble beginnings in Little Odessa, New York, to the world renowned stage of warlords from around the globe, as well as a bunch of legitimate powerful politicians, all vying for even more guns, even more weapons and even more ammunition (for yes…even more war!). This film entertained me throughout, but it also provided me with a truly insightful look at the amoral world of trading man-killers. Much like Johnny Depp in BLOW and Ray Liotta in GOODFELLAS, Cage takes us through the film with ease, as the film (and his character’s life) start off on a light tip, with dark humor, funny moments and a cool soundtrack setting us up for what appears to be, a fun look at a rotten underworld. But about halfway through the movie, the tone switches effortlessly to something a lot more dark, a lot less funny and a lot more real, with Cage’s character finally stumbling across obstacles in his “road to glory”, as well as the moral implications of his extremely lucrative endeavors.

As the saying goes, does evil truly prevail when good men fail to act or does evil prevail…no matter what? It’s a question asked by the film’s lead character, while its sobering conclusion, provides us with a true sense of how deep the film’s subject matter is really rooted. Cage’s “speech” nearing the end of the picture is also a fascinating eye-opener about the true nature of his job and its place in the world and the United States. But it wasn’t only the film’s topic and moral questions that I appreciated here, I also really liked the way writer/director Andrew Niccol presented the whole thing, with an obvious eye for style, and plenty of years covered, languages spoken and locations visited, all helping to give the film that much more authenticity. The film’s creative opening credit sequence was also one of the best of the year. Cage’s performance was solid, but he wasn’t truly asked to emote much here, as his character slinks through his role, as he seems to fool not only many of those around him, but himself as well. As secondary characters, I was sure that Jared Leto was going to be that annoying “drugged up” sibling, while Bridget Moynahan was to be nothing more than a trophy wife, but I was happily surprised as both characters were given a little more depth, particularly Leto, who provided the film with a modest touch of emotion.

Not too many films are able to balance an important topic about a serious issue with dark humor (Cage’s character is visibly upset when he hears about “peace talks” in a country to which he was just about to provide weapons—“Why can’t they stick to their word?!”), emotion and a thru-line that provides the whole with a sense of congruity, but LORD OF WAR does all that, while simultaneously providing the audience with something to mull over afterwards. There weren’t too many releases about which you could say that this year. Oh, and the sequence in which the spent shells from an automatic weapon are discharged to the sound of “cha-ching, cha-ching” in Cage’s mind was priceless.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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