Reviews & Previews - Lord of War

Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2005 at 06:00 PM

Lord of War

By: S. Tran

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto, Ethan Hawke, Bridget Moynahan
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Running Time: 122 Minutes
Rated: Rated R for strong violence, drug use, language and sexuality

Fully Armed

Lord of War is a nice surprise and a good way to end the summer movie season. This intelligent, well acted film is more of a drama than a flat out action movie but it works on a few levels to entertain and give the audience something to think about. This is a rare movie that provokes real discussion after you have left the theatre.

Nicolas Cage stars as Yuri Orlov, the son of poor immigrants who describes his ascent from restaurant worker to international arms dealer. Well, dealer is being a bit generous, Yuri is an arms smuggler who loves what he does simply because he is good at it. Oddly though, Yuri will sell weapons yet finds himself appalled when they are used to kill people.

One of the nicest things about this film is Cage's terrific performance as Yuri, an otherwise good man who deals in death on a regular basis. Yuri is not a simple character, nor is he cast out of some Hollywood mold. We're never asked to root for Yuri as the film doesn't shy away from showing him with all his faults, from his gun running to his womanizing. At the same time its hard for us to not to like him as we watch and admire his moxy in evading the efforts of Interpol to stop his illegal activities. He is so smooth in the role that we almost find ourselves believing that he does nothing wrong because as he explains to the authorities, he doesn't force anyone to shoot his guns and hopes as much as anyone that the bullets he sells miss their mark when they are fired.

Yuri's conscience in the film, and to a certain extant our conscience, is his younger brother Vitaly played by Jared Leto. Vitaly begins to see the destruction and violence that Yuri's activities cause and tries his best to convince Yuri to stop what he is doing. Vitaly also has his problems however in that he is a self destructive drug addict. Once again the film doesn't provide us with a simple hero. Its hard to balance Vitaly's unselfish concern for other people with his disregard for his own life.

Perhaps the only truly good guy in the film is Ethan Hawke as the Interpol agent pursuing Yuri. Time and again though Hawke plays the coyote to Yuri's Roadrunner, always one frustrating step behind him. Hawke's character is a nice foil to Cage as he is as dedicated to his ideals as Yuri is to smuggling weapons. Both do what they do because they want to do a good job and they are comfortable with their place in life. Yet Hawke is also imperfect because he can never quite finish the job he is hired to do. Yuri explains that Hawke is one of those rare policeman who won't break the law even to arrest a criminal.

Moynahan appears as Cage's wife in perhaps the most uninteresting role in the movie. She is supposed to serve as Yuri's anchor to his crazy life but her role is so minimal and ineffective that she barely registers. Yuri's adventures beyond the home are the real focus of the film.

The film is a little long and lags in places but overall its a good film that you should take the time to see. While it is definitely an anti-gun movie the message is subtle for the most part and delivered in an entertaining fashion, never overpowering the narrative.


3.5 out of 5 stars.


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