After moving from Odessa (Ukraine) to New York (United States), Yuri Orlov (Nicholas Cage) decides to become an illegal international arms dealer, alongside his younger brother Vitaly (Jared Leto). Supplying an ungodly amount of weaponry to disturbed and deprived areas of the world, Yuri quickly becomes a multi-millionaire before marrying and seemingly creating the perfect life, all while being hunted down by a large group of federal agents, spearheaded by Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke). Based on real events, Lord of War manages to give the viewer a brilliantly realistic view of what goes on behind closed doors when it comes to arms dealing.
Director: Andrew Niccol
Writers: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto, Ethan Hawke, Bridget Moynahan
Filmed between August and November of 2004 before being released in 2005, it could be argued that Lord of War may go down as one of the finest films undertaken by the renowned Nicolas Cage. Whenever a film, such as this one, decides to explore real-world subjects that are often brushed under the carpet on a political and entertainment level, they deserve to be highlighted, especially when there’s large elements of truth to them also.
Straight away, what struck me about Lord of War was the way in which the filmmaker managed to carry out the storytelling aspect of the flick. The premise of the movie was extremely easy to comprehend and never really found itself overcomplicating matters at any stage – something that other films of this nature can find themselves doing at times. There didn’t seem to be any pointless, additional sub-plots and it’s fair to say that the runtime, which stood at a rather modest one-hundred and twenty-three minutes, seemed just about perfect, because at no point did the feeling of boredom or stagnation enter the fray.
Something else that stood out to me, had to be the production level, cinematography and the general diversity of the filming locations and cast on display. The filmmaker managed to add an international flavour throughout the flick, while also managing to maintain a primarily American feel, with the vast majority of the filming being done in New York (United States), Cape Town (South Africa) or the Czech Republic. Each of the unique locations on display added its own unique ounce of character and charm, making Lord of War really stand out from your run-of-the-mill thriller.
In terms of the cast, it could be argued that Nicolas Cage manages to put in his finest cinematic performance in Lord of War – the American actor looked perfect in a role in which he had to undertake the character of a cold hearted, goal-orientated personality, while also having to inject a touch of humour in there too. Jared Leto, who later went on to win as Oscar for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club, showed a tremendous amount of promise in this similar support role, portraying Vitaly Orlov, a man struggling with addiction and the horrendously difficult morale decisions thrown his way.
Elsewhere, a young Ethan Hawke also appeared, adopting the role of Jack Valentine, a strait-laced federal agent, tasked with preventing the illegal arms operation going on. His performance wasn’t award worthy, but at the same time, it did no harm on his career. The same could be said for Bridget Moynahan, who starred as Ava Fontaine, the wife of Yuri Orlov.
All in all, it’s difficult to give one individual reason as to why Lord of War is such a spectacular flick, but when a production decides to approach such a real and hard-hitting subject with such a refreshingly open and honest perspective, it’s hard to argue against its greatness.
“There are two types of tragedies in life. One is not getting what you want, the other is getting it.”Yuri Orlov – Lord of War