Monday, September 26, 2005

Movie review: LORD OF WAR

The last movie by writer-director Andrew Niccol that I really admired was his very first, the 1997 sci-fi stunner Gattaca. Now he’s finally produced another mind-blower — Lord of War, a devastating (yet sometimes oddly comedic) portrait of modern war from the perspective of an arms dealer. Nicholas Cage is especially fine in this movie, playing Yuri Orlov, born in Russia and raised in Brooklyn, where he first gets into the weapons trade selling guns to Russian gangs in his neighborhood. Business grows from there, and he’s eventually marketing AK-47s, tanks, missiles, and military helicopters worldwide. We follow the life of Yuri for about 20 years, and it’s a nightmarish trek.

Lord of War isn’t a simpleminded indictment of guns or gun-ownership, as some conservative film reviewers have charged. It’s not even particularly an attack on arms dealers like Yuri, whom Niccol says is a composite of five different real-life people. But it is a vitriolic portrayal of governments that loudly applaud international arms embargo laws while they secretly use unethical merchants like Yuri Orlov to satisfy their own ends. Niccol claims that every event in the movie is based on fact, and it does ring with authenticity. So much so that, even though compelling, it’s often hard to watch.

Lord of War is a smidge too long, I think. And it may stand as one of this fall's most depressing films. But it's a very important movie. Make a point to see it.
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