LORD OF WAR
Based on facts, the story follows the globetrotting exploits of New York born Russian arms dealer Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage). He leaves his struggling parents in 'Little Odessa', marries his dream girl, supermodel Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan) and embarks on a single minded mission to be the world's top arms dealer. Through some of the deadliest war zones, Yuri struggles to stay one step ahead of a relentless Interpol agent (Ethan Hawke), his business rival Simeon Weisz (Ian Holm), even some of his customers who include many of the world's most notorious dictators, like Liberia's Baptiste (Eamonn Walker). Finally, Yuri must also face his own conscience.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It is disturbing - if not surprising - to read in the film's production notes that writer/director Andrew Niccol's lengthy and detailed research into the subject matter came up with many of the events depicted in the film. It's not that I'm naïve, but it's one thing sensing or suspecting the worst, but it's quite another to be confronted by its reality. That's one impact the film has, although it also works on the surface level as a thriller about a dangerous trade and a man who enjoys the risks and handles them well.
Where it becomes more interesting is in the moral maze, or arms wrestling, that Niccol draws around Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), mixing the black and white issues with some grey ones. Yuri becomes a likeable figure as he narrates his own story, pretty frankly much of the time, and there is an absence of real malice. He is not an evil man, but says things like "There are billions of guns in the world: one for every 12 people. The question is, how do you arm the other 11."
Cage serves Niccol well in this sense, creating a likeable character whose moral distinctions grow gradually more difficult to maintain. He loses our sympathy but gains our understanding. A tough act to pull off - but they nearly manage it.
The film is totally engaging, even though not always on an emotional level; there are so many issues striding through the screenplay it's hard to relate too closely to Yuri, although there are moments ... Jared Leto is excellent as Vitaly, the cocaine-addled younger brother whose moral fibre emerges at a tragic cross road, and Eamon Walker is chillingly good as the dictator Baptiste.
The ending offers a sobering proposition about the world Yuri inhabits, and the film fulfils its charter to entertain - but it is also a genuine horror film about humanity.
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LORD OF WAR (MA)
CAST: Nicolas Cage, Bridget Moynahan, Jared Leto, Ian Holm, Eamonn Walker, Ethan Hawke, Shake Toukhmanian, Jean-Pierre Nshanian,
VOICES: Donald Sutherland
PRODUCER: Nicolas Cage, Andrew Niccol, Chris Roberts, Teri-Lin Robertson, Philippe Rousselet
DIRECTOR: Andrew Niccol
SCRIPT: Andrew Niccol
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Amir M. Mokri
EDITOR: Zach Staenberg
MUSIC: Antonio Pinto
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jean-Vincent Puzos
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 16, 2006