Movie of the Day – Lord of War
June 26, 2011 1 Comment
You know, Andrew Niccol needs to write and direct a lot more. I wrote an article about Gattaca and how much loved his direction and writing style, but that was his first movie he did back in 1997 and wouldn’t be 5 years until we would get his next picture. He did S1m0ne, which was an interesting movie, but ultimately unsatisfying as Pacino just kind of phoned in his performance. It wasn’t until 2005 when he decided to do a political commentary movie on the subject gunrunning and illegal arms dealers in Lord of War. This also happens to be one of my favorite Nic Cage movies that doesn’t have him running around in a bear costume, punching women in the face (this was the Wicker Man if you didn’t know). I generally have a weird aversion to political commentary movies, since the subject is heavily one-sided and directors just smash their stance into your head over and over again. Given Niccol’s sharp writing and directing style, I gave this movie a chance based off of the trailer and the subject matter of gun smuggling, one that doesn’t typically get covered.
Lord of War tells the story of a young man, Yuri Orlov and his introduction into the arms trade. Yuri is wanting to get out of his current predicament and finds that guns seem to make the world go around with conflicts and war happening all the time. He sells his first uzi, employs his brother Vitaly to help watch his back and goes bigger with arm sales. Yuri ends up becoming one of the big time gun smugglers and comes under the watchful eye of Interpol and other rival dealers. Yuri must learn to balance not only his life with his new wife and family problems, but also his moral stance on selling guns and the criminal implications that come with it.
While I stated above that some of the political commentary movies always just hammer their point, Lord of War doesn’t necessarily push their message across during the movie. Yes I understand that atrocities are committed on both sides of a conflict and that guns are tool to commit the actions, but the movie does this in way that is compelling and doesn’t get tired. I think focusing the movie on the moral actions of Yuri Orlov helps frame what we are seeing from a personal perspective, rather than numerous glimpses of people using guns to kill and maim.
The movie is more of a character study on the life of the gunner runner Yuri Orlov. We get to see, on a personal level the toll that just selling guns does to one human. While he never kills anyone directly, the acting of selling guns does have a personal affect on his morality. His life was essentially built by selling guns and that is all he knows. The movie covers his time trying to go straight in life and not sell weapons, but his natural ability selling and transporting weapons get the best of him.
There is a message along with the guns are bad are theme and that is whether we are selling or using guns, all our lives are affected by them. Yuri is never directly involved with the conflicts (namely shooting the guns in the war) but he realizes that his guns are being used to carry out atrocities. He never once thinks that his life will be harmed by guns, but those around him are affected by his business. The wife and brother pay a price for neutral stance on selling guns and ultimately he is made out to be the devil by the Interpol agent. Niccol’s frames the final scene and message of the movie in that Yuri is only one person. While he sells guns, his sales are miniscule compared to that of other nations. So before we villainize one man, we must look and see that there is a bigger picture in manufacturing and distributing arms.
If you have never seen the movie before, put this on your Netflix queue. Andrew Niccol’s writes and directors a stellar drama, and often time comedic movie, adding some humor to a relatively dower movie. The political message is strong and frame the situation in a personal light by showing the act of selling arms from the point of view of man.