Nicolas Cage is your local neighborhood arms dealer in Andrew Niccol’s Lord of War
LORD OF WAR (2005)
Starring Nicolas Cage
Written and directed by Andrew Niccol
Released by Christal Films
“They say that evil prevails when good men fail to act. What they otta say is, evil prevails.”
With this statement, writer director Andrew Niccol brings the viewer into a sly and well written story that follows the dangerous world of illegal arms dealing. We are introduced to Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), a man who with his flair for business and complete lack of morality finds his calling as a “merchant of death”. Beginning with Brighton Beach gangsters and moving up to African warlords, Lord of War follows Yuri as he travels the world outrunning a glory seeking agent (Ethan Hawke) and outwitting an arms competitor (a disappointing Ian Holm).
Nicolas Cage doesn’t have a great track record for making quality films lately (Ghost Rider anyone?), but as Orlov, Cage shines as a man who may be able to learn five languages, but can’t understand why his partner and brother Vitaly (Jared Leto) self destructs under the pressure of the family business. Yuri never apologizes to the audience for his anti-hero status, in fact he tells you in the beginning of the film “Don’t worry I’m not going to rewrite the story so that I look good, I’m just going to tell you what happened.”
Even though Yuri consistently does terrible, incomprehensible things throughout the film, Cage’s charismatic performance makes the character oddly sympathetic. It’s as if, despite yourself, you want this man to be successful in supplying guns to African child soldiers or stealing weapons from communist Ukraine.
As agent Jack Valentine, Ethan Hawke proves yet again he’s at his best when he plays energetic and idealistic characters. Cage and Hawke have great chemistry as two men who play their game of cat and mouse on the international stage with very deadly consequences. The best scenes in the film are when a frustrated Valentine storms off after yet again not being able to prove Yuri’s obvious illegal activities.
Valentine will never stop trying to put an end to Yuri’s activities even though Yuri continually reminds Valentine how useless his efforts are. Yuri is very happy as a merchant of death, he’s good at it and even if Valentine is successful at catching him one day there will just be someone else to take his place. As a man who supplies guns for both foreign “terrorists” along with members of the United States government, illegal arms dealers are a necessary evil to make sure the world keeps running.
Yuri never has the epiphany one comes to expect from a Hollywood film; you know the one where after witnessing horrific acts of brutality and carnage, the anti-hero changes his ways and walks off into the sunset. Instead this film offers nothing but the cold hard truth that people will always want to kill each other and therefore there will always be people there to make money off of it. Not a cheery topic perhaps, but absolutely a film worth checking out.