Film Review: Lord of War
Lord of War
Writer/Director: Andrew Niccol
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ethan Hawke, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan
Cage's cool arms dealing anti-hero, Yuri Orlov has such a swagger, such an infectious optimism for his dispacable trade of death that we are forever morally compromised. His narration guides us through his trevails as the son of Russian emigres in the US who slides into the shadowy world of buying and selling arms from and to the dodgiest of people on Earth - for a high-rolling lifestyle and air points. Yuri and his unbounded capitalistic rampage is a sort of reverse "My name is Earl" concept where the winning smile and personality (you know - Marc Ellis) is the same but the ethical plane is all downhill.
On his tail is a young Interpol officer (Hawke) who harasses him but is always one step behind the man with more fake passports than Ahmed Zaoui. Moyhahan plays a wife who's middle class lifestyle is a cognisent acquiesence to her husband's unspoken criminality - a bargain sure to eventually unravel - especially with his unpredictable brother (Leto) in the mix as Yuri's sometime right hand man. But the coolest character is unfortunately an Idi Amin-type Liberian dictator - a thinly veiled Charles Taylor (who has just been arrested trying to flee Nigeria from War Crimes allegations by the way). Between the sudden acts of ultra-violent brutality, he plays a convincing, no-nonsense, preferred customer. Ian Holm pops up as an established/respectable arms trader who turns rival after he tersely rebuffs Yuri at an defence expo.
Yuri's story takes us through Lebanon in the 80s, the break-up of the Soviet Union, West Africa in the 90s, South America and touches on just about every dirty little sub-plot to international conflict and civil war for the last twenty years. As such it is part history, part commentary on US foreign policy and part analysis of the nature of the arms trade.
At this point we must salute the work of Niccol. The characters are fascinating, the plot is a fast and heavy fully auto Armalite and the stylistic features are belt-fed twin gatlings. And with the aesthetics of the mechanics of death constantly to the fore like stinging nostrils from cordite that qualm of conscience twangs rather muted in the background. That and Hawke's mis-casting (far too young for a senior Police role) is the only safety lock on something so very enjoyable it is almost objectionable. Almost.