Movie Review
Lord of War
Lord of War poster
By Craig Younkin     Published September 18, 2005
US Release: September 16, 2005

Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Nicolas Cage , Ethan Hawke , Jared Leto , Bridget Moynahan

Running Time: 122 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $24,127,895
This is one of the most fascinating movies of the year.
The main character of "Lord of War" observes early on that humans are animalistic. They'll do anything to get what they want, an observation that can quickly be verified within five minutes of watching the local news. War, violence, and politics ? three things that more often than not go hand in hand ? are the set pieces of director Andrew Niccol's film, and it is an uncompromising look at a man who can weigh in on all three in the most direct and catastrophic way.

His name is Yuri Orlov (Nicholas Cage), a Ukrainian immigrant who escaped Russia with his family. If it's one thing Yuri has learned it's that war is a continuous cycle, especially in third world countries. The movie focuses on Russia and Africa mostly, going through a timeline of events such as the Cold War and the African divide that asks young boys to pick up an AK-47 and join the war. These are particularly trying times for the respected countries but not for Yuri. He sees it has a potential market. Along with his brother Vitaly (Jared Leto), Yuri becomes a leading arms dealer in these countries, selling to anybody willing to buy. The job affords him a very posh lifestyle, complete with a model trophey wife (Bridget Moynahan) and powerful friends like Liberian dictator Baptiste (Eamonn Walker). The job also attracts an unwanted presence, however, in FBI agent Valentine (Ethan Hawke), a guy who still believes he can make a difference in a world gone mad.

"Lord of War?s" biggest attribute is Nicholas Cage, who gives the most captivating performance of the year. He gives Yuri an air of supreme confidence. Much like a used car dealer or, more aptly, a cigarette vendor, Yuri is a man convinced he is doing nothing wrong. Wars exist with or without him, so he might as well make a buck off of them anyway. The most interesting thing about the character is that even when he faces the most nightmarish reality imaginable, it still serves as no comeuppance for him. He continues on with his ways, death or no death, arrest or no arrest. He does, however, share with us his own views on the guns he sells, and the movie puts him into a situation at one point where he is forced to kill a man.

These scenes only serve to add complexity to an already complex and fascinating character. He is so shockingly at ease that it doesn't take long to realize that this is the perfect guy to take us on the tour of arms dealing. We are shown where he gets the weapons, how he manages to evade the authorities, who these liberation groups in third world countries really are, and how a man like this can prosper in society. That later seems to be Niccol's biggest concern, one he lets out in really good jabs against Yuri's character. At one point, he says he won't sell to Osama Bin Laden because "he was always bouncing checks.?

"Lord of War" is an intelligent and angry film with the most reprehensible of villains as its focal point, but at times, also a man who seems to have a little bit of humanity left in him. This is the best performance Nicholas Cage has given in quite a while, and this year, the most Oscar worthy so far. He is also backed up nicely by Ethan Hawke, Jared Leto, and Eamonn Walker. Director/writer Andrew Niccol, who wrote Gattaca and The Truman Show, once again shows his brilliance in crafting movies. At the end of the film, the words, "based on actual events" appear on the screen, and the movie makes us believe it. This is one of the best and most fascinating movies of the year.
Craig's Grade: A
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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'Lord of War' Articles
  • Scott's review B
    September 20, 2005    We've seen this kind of movie before, but what makes Lord stand out is its commentary on modern geopolitical realities. -- Scott Sycamore