Lord of War - What a bizarre film. Lord of War tells the story of an arms dealer, played by Nicolas Cage, whose business begins modestly with the sale of a single Uzi. Then comes the fortuitous fall of the Soviet Union and his business opportunities quickly expand. The film makers claim the situations depicted in the film were inspired by actual events. Indeed, a follow up documentary included on the DVD contains interviews with think-tank types and NGO administrators that claim as much. But I found this film perplexing.
Spoilers ahead! Proceed at your own risk.
Lord of War and Its Ironies
The Lord of War is difficult movie to classify. I want to call it a dark comedy, but it's not that comedic. Perhaps dark satire fits better--and purposely ironic. It's also deep without being cerebral. But for a movie meant to be critical of the arms trade, it's totally ironic that the producers admitted to using arms dealers to get some props for the film. In one scene, there was a shot with 50 tanks lined up. I thought it was some kind of special effects shot. Nope. They rented all 50 tanks from a large arms dealer--who was selling them soon after the scene was shot to Lybia. Really. Doesn't that define irony?
What Lord of War is Not
Perhaps it's easier to to describe what the film Lord of War is, by discussing what it is not. Lord of War is NOT a remake of the fine Steven Soderbergh film Traffic. Some have labeled Lord of War as "Traffic with arms instead drugs." I disagree. Traffic was all business. Lord of War is filled with visual ironies and comedic jabs that illustrate the insanity of war leaders and the arms dealers who supply them. Traffic didn't focus on irony but on hyper-reality. Lord of War's director Andrew Niccol (GATTACA and Truman Show) certainly shares a point of view in this film, but I was left feeling rather helpless. What can I do to help this problem of arms, war, and insane leaders? Is there any hope? Perhaps I'm asking too much.
Don't get me wrong; I really enjoyed this film. But perhaps for the wrong reasons: I liked the irony, the comedy, the juxaposition of visuals and character motivations. I liked Cage's arms dealer character. This film was entertaining and interesting, but afterward I thought it should have been more gut wrenching and horrific...Right.
Nicolas Cage was more restrained in his performance than usual, portraying a likable arms dealer. And can you believe it? Jared Leto can act! Hat's off to this guy. His portrayal is spot on as Cage's coke-head brother and sometime accomplice. Really excellent. And even Ethan Hawke pulls out a good performance. But this film wasn't about the acting. It's about small arms dealing and the ridiculous situations such deals manifest. The film illustrates how arms dealing is done, and to some degree how it affects the world.
As the largest arms dealer in the world, the U.S. is complicit in white, black, and often gray trade of arms sales that serve it's national purposes.
The stunning Bridget Moynahan play's Cage's wife. At one point referred to as a trophy wife, you get the feeling she's much more important to him than that. She's his anchor to reality, his warped justification for his evil deeds.
Visually, the production design is interesting and unobtrusive, and the cinematography is quite good. Ethan Hawke plays the ever persistent government agent out to stop arms dealer Nicolas Cage. But Cage always seems to figure a way out of any bind, and the law-abiding Hawke is always forced to let him go. And in the end, when Hawke finally catches Cage with the goods, the outcome is no better for Hawke. Though he finally catches Cage with the goods, Hawke can't keep him. Higher powers know the value of the arms dealing in today's politically sensitive world. They need Cage to do their dirty work when political sensibilities get in the way of direct involvement.
It's a film that doesn't take itself seriously, yet conveys a deadly serious message, but you get that more as an aftertaste.
Disk two of this set has two documentaries, one on the making of the film, but the other goes into the real world of arms dealers, their impact, the government's complicity. Interviews people who work to fight the impact these traders have on goverments, and the lives of people. Blood stones. You are Cages character,
I was left feeling helpless. Absolutely powerless. This happens. It's always happened, and it will continue to happen. I'm damn blessed to be alive in the U.S. Damn blessed. My life is not decided by the whim of a psychopathic leader (usually), just an ignorant one. But I felt no outlet, just victimization. What can I do? That was not the message of this film.
Starring Nicolas Cage, directed by Andrew Niccol, who did GATTICA and The Truman Show. Stellar, The Terminal, S1mOne (Simone). Ethan Hawke, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan, Ian Holm.
Life immitates art. The producers rented some of the props for the movie from real arms dealers. Arms that would later be sold to and used in war.
Filmed primarily in South Africa, the Lord of War is definitely worth seeing, especially the 2 DVD set which contains a couple compelling documentaries. I give it 4 out of 5 stars :)
It's a parody that gets so close to the truth we have to laugh at the awkward feeling.
It's like walking in on your aged parents having sex. After getting over the shock, you put laughter in place of disgust.
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