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In Association with
Lord Of War (2005)
Writer and director: Andrew Niccol

review by Mike Philbin

Lord Of War is the story (it claims it's based on true events) of the life of going-nowhere doing-nothing Ukrainian �migr� Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), as he discovers how the American dream of guns for every citizen can actually be taken to global extremes. The story starts in Little Odessa, NY in 1982 when, thanks to a family Sabbath connection, Yuri sells his first Uzi 9mm.

"The first time you sell a gun is a lot like the first time you have sex. You have absolutely no idea what you're doing and it is exciting and, one way or another, it's over way too fast."

Andrew Niccol, writer of Gattaca, The Truman Show, and The Terminal, has really pulled out all the stops with this directorial outing. This has to be his writing pinnacle, full of pathos and passion. Niccol's characters are immense and flavourful. His direction is meaningful and adds to the well-crafted tale. His narrated observations are bang-on contemporary socio-political commentary.

"Selling guns is like selling vacuum cleaners; you make calls, you pound the streets."

Yuri's wife (to be) is top model Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan), and it's great how she keeps turning up in war zones, adorning bullet-ridden advertising hoardings. Yuri soon becomes a family man with 'parental obligations'.

Yuri stumbles from gun deal to gun deal making connections with the failed Russia of 1991, via his Uncle Dmitri, and ends up dealing with Liberian warlord Andr� Baptise. And that gorgeous Monrovian scene where Yuri is left a 'gift' of Iman and Naomi at his two-star hotel - I mean, that's a bit close to the bone with all that talk of blood diamonds and all, "And no condom within a hundred miles."

I love Yuri's quick comebacks at the end of a gun. There is a lovely allusion to the cash-register opening stanzas of Pink Floyd's song Money as an Afghani fighter unloads his AK-47 into the desert in lovingly pornographic slow-motion.

I love Yuri's drug-and-slut-addicted brother Vitali (Jared Leto), bumping in and out of rehab like any modern day pop-star. I love Yuri's cargo-lockup office. I love Andr� Baptise junior's quest for the gun of Rambo. But most of all I love Ian Holm, who plays Yuri's main competition in this global gun-running docudrama; the sorta corporate-scum brown-noser who sold arms to both Iran and Iraq hoping they'd both fail.

Of course, Yuri's past catches up with him, as does the CIA... and this is the most intriguing aspect of this intriguing supposed biopic. "You can fight a lot of enemies and survive but if you fight your biology you always lose." But what's Lord Of War really about?

Remember, Yuri acts like he's some sort of Jason Bourne of the gun-running world and he gets caught. Again and again, he has to conjure up some amazing get out clause or escape route. But this is easy to do in films.

So, where does the real-world air freight businessman Viktor Bout fit into this well-publicised mainstream pseudo-biopic? Well, according to Dmitri Khalezov, his legal representative in Thailand during the extradition proceedings, the speculative content and major publicity of this film negates any chance of a fair and honest trial for his client in any country.

Could this mainstream feature actually be just another amazing get out for a 'global businessman governments just cannot allow to be caught' manufactured by Hollywood to allow the corporate war machine to continue to murder the world in the name of progress? But Lord Of War is just a fictional film so I just can't go there, morally. It's way beyond contemplation.

Also, there's no mention of the 11th September 2001 'terror attack' in the film, which seems odd as Bin Laden is mentioned, in passing, as a cheque bouncer. The other obvious reason for a freelance gun-runner like Yuri wouldn't have done business with Bin Laden is the US government dealt directly with the Mujahedin aka Al Qaeda. There may be too much at stake for all concerned to involve 'amateurs'.

Finally, let's return to the American Constitution: 'every state should have a well-armed militia to protect themselves from a government gone rogue', or paraphrased words to that effect. Easier solution: get rid of governments, then they can't go rogue.

DVD extras: director's commentary, making of Lord Of War, Making A Killing: Inside The International Arms Trade featurette, Nicolas Cage interview, cast and crew interviews, deleted scenes, and a trailer.

Lord Of War

copyright © 2001 - Pigasus Press