Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lord of War

2005, US, directed by Andrew Niccol

Although Lord of War undoubtedly has some compelling - if broad-brush - things to say about the international arms trade, writer-director Andrew Niccol tries to have it both ways, combining a lesson in the ways of the world with a sometimes overly intoxicating portrait of the life of Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), a fictional arms dealer who, in short order, goes from a tedious life in Brighton Beach to the top of the international arms trade and untold wealth (it's not always a credible rise to power, while it seems persistently strange that Orlove travels to the world's most volatile places with no security staff).

It's hard, at times, to avoid the conclusion that whatever the immoralities of Orlov's life, Niccol makes the good years seem awfully fun from the protagonist's amoral perspective, and the film's political point-scoring rarely returns to the heights set in a brilliantly cynical, and ultimately brutal, opening sequence that describes the life of a bullet from manufacture to use. That said, Niccol does open a useful window to the reality that most wartime deaths, at least in the kinds of nasty civil conflicts where Orlov makes his money, are from small arms fire, not aerial bombing, with AK-47s the most ubiquitous weapon on the market, cheap, easy to transport, and reliably lethal.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States