September 23 - 29, 2005 • Vol. 26 - No. 38

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Lord of War—and Not the Holy Lord Kind
by The Blonde and The Maven
Film Columnists

Lord of War is the story of Brooklyn-bred immigrants’ son who rises to the top of the illegal arms trade during the 1980s and ‘90s. Narrating his own story with wry observations and playful cynicism, Yuri Orlov, played by Nicholas Cage (National Treasure and Leaving Las Vegas) leads us on his journey into the international conspiracy to move and sell guns into regions where they can do the most harm. Yuri argues that his products kill less people than tobacco and alcohol. (He might be in serious denial!) He has sold weapons to every army but the Salvation Army! Early on, he brings his brother, Vitaly, portrayed by Jared Leto (Alexander and Panic Room) into the business. Vitaly has no stomach for it and turns to cocaine to help numb himself from the guilt. Yuri places his brother in rehab and continues to do business on his own. He arranges to meet the girl he’s always had a crush on, woos her, and eventually marries her and convinces her he’s richer than he actually is. Ava Fontaine, who is played by Bridget Moynahan (I, Robot and Sum of All Fears) thinks he is in the transportation business and never questions him about how legitimate he may or may not be. Let’s just say she looks the other way, A LOT! During this time (between 1982 and 1992), over $32 billion arms were stolen and sold after the cold war ended. These became available for sale by former Soviet States to developing countries. No culprit was ever caught. Yuri, a smart businessman, makes his fortune here. Most of the story is about Yuri staying one step ahead of his business rivals, customers and a relentless agent, Jack Valentine, portrayed by Ethan Hawke (Training Day and Gattaca). From the opening credits, where we are taken on a visual ride of the manufacturer of a bullet through its delivery of many buyers, to its use at the point of impact, to a vision of Yuri standing amongst thousands of shells, this story never sugarcoats the fact that these weapons KILL! Yuri will sell arms to anyone who will pay his price! He confesses that there is one person he never did business with: Osama Bin Laden (WHAT A GUY!); not for moral reasons, but because the man was always bouncing checks. Yuri informs us that “there are 550 million firearms in circulation around the globe, one for every twelve people.” He wonders how he can arm the other eleven people.
The writer and director, Andrew Niccol (Gattaca and Simone), said he based his story on actual events. Yuri is a composite of five real-life arms dealers. In one scene, there are five tanks lined up for sale. These were actually owned by a gunrunner who had to have them back to sell to another country. A real stockpile of 3.000 AK-47s were used; cheaper than re-creating the guns for props.
Go see this heart-pounding film filled with unfortunate realism!  

The Blonde: WOW… Lord of War was like Catch 22 meets Tears of the Sun meets Three Kings meets Welcome to Sarajevo meets The Constant Gardener and Beyond Borders. This was an extremely powerful film. It captures your attention and never frees you. It is quite frightening to learn how true the story of this film actually is, IN REALITY. Scary stuff, movie fans, scary stuff! By the way, Mav, Nick looked fantastic, fresh and young. Ya think he has recently visited the plastic surgeon? I mean, he did just marry a young girl… don’t they all! Nick is such a fine actor. He is unbelievably in the moment in every scene. He steals this film away from all the other actors. One thing that totally disturbed me as much as the storyline was that Yuri loves and adores his wife, yet he cheats on her. He also lies to her. This brings me to the million-dollar question…do all men cheat? Do all men lie? I mean, be it far from me to play “THE BLAME GAME!”
The Maven: Oh, “The Blame Game” was so last week! I, too, thought the movie was provocative. I was confused by my feelings for Yuri. Here is a guy that is more concerned about the possibility of catching AIDS in Africa than he is about what his arms are doing to the country. He was not a “GOOD MAN.” Certainly, he was not an honest man. Yet, I couldn’t help but root for him whenever it seemed he was about to die or be arrested. What brilliant character writing that is! However, Andrew didn’t write Ava’s character very well. She didn’t elicit any feelings from me at all. She was just a pretty face.
The Blonde: I agree with you about Yuri. How his pathetic, unethical, cruel character remained likeable enough to root for was probably due to Nick’s likeability. It reminded me of the film, The Getaway, and how you rooted for the bad guys. I also, found it quite interesting that you will find yourself laughing quite a number of times throughout this film, then stop to appreciate that it truly isn’t funny at all. It’s a weird phenomenon. So Mav, I just learned that Britney Spears is pregnant with a baby boy!
The Maven: Ah, NO she isn’t anymore! She already had her almost 7 pound little boy last week! Again, you are so last week!  I think the main reason this story so fascinated me is the sense of truth behind it. It’s horrifying to realize that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are the world’s biggest arms suppliers. That is just mind-boggling! I was equally intrigued by the character Andre Baptiste, the President of Liberia. The actor playing him was Eamonn Walker (Tears of the Sun and Unbreakable). I wonder if Andrew Niccol was a little nervous writing about a character based on Charles Taylor (who is currently in exile in Nigeria). Taylor is rumored to have been backed by some Americans who wanted him to replace Samuel Doe in Liberia. Taylor’s activities in Liberia (and subsequently Sierra Leone) required lots of weapons. Someone profited greatly from Taylor’s reign! Like I said, this film had A LOT of realism and truth! It was quite difficult to sit through it sometimes. I still feel guilty for laughing!

The Blonde:  I understand what you mean about hard to sit through. However, to not see this film is to look the other way. To see this film is to witness the truth, even though at times you will want to look away. I kept wondering why Nick took on this film and wanted to play this type of character, but the ending completely solved that mystery for me. It was like he blows the whistle on THE “REAL EVIL DOERS”! So, what’s up with the splits in Hollywood? It was hard enough on the world to deal with the split of Jennifer and Ben and then Jennifer and Brad? Now, Renée Zellweger and what’s his name! Oh the humanity, it’s too hard to cope!  She’s hoping to get an annulment. To be granted this means they didn’t consummate the marriage. If I was a newlywed and didn’t have sex for 5 months, I’d split too!
The Maven: I think you may be playing “THE BLAME GAME” again, and there will be plenty of time for that later!
The Blonde: You mean, the split is BUSH’S FAULT, TOO!
The Maven: I think that question calls for an independent investigation.
The Blonde: Hey Mav, how come you didn’t speak about the drop-dead gorgeous actor Jared Leto, who plays Vitaly, Yuri’s younger brother. I would just love to crawl into his big, blue, amazing eyes and spend the weekend there. What a hunky hunk he is. I felt so bad for his character. I didn’t like the way Yuri kept putting him in the way of fire!
The Maven: I’m too jealous of his eyelashes to give him too much credit. Anyway, anyone who would leave Mary Louise Parker (PREGNANT) to go with Claire Danes has no substance and is just a pretty boy to me!
The Blonde: I think that is a tad harsh. Being a Pretty Boy should give him some points! Why are YOU playing “THE BLAME GAME” again? How do you know that he wasn’t abused by Mary Louise?
The Maven: No, she seems too sweet and he is too cute for her to abuse him! When the investigator is done with Renée and Kenny, we can send him over to Jared and Mary Louise.
The Blonde: Why does the investigator have to be a HE?
The Maven: In closing, this extremely dark satire about the global arms trade, and our country’s significant role in it, is a seat-squirming experience. Nicholas Cage portrays an anti-hero whom you almost like. What you WILL like is that he is very good at what he does. That will make you very uncomfortable. Cage, the star, entertains. Yuri, the character, repels you. The subject matter is volatile but compelling. I rate this film a B+ for bravely exposing a business that will always be there no matter how revolting it seems to be.
The Blonde: This film takes you into a world that most of us can’t even imagine or dream of.  It is actually more of a nightmare than a dream. It points out that there is so much in this life we can’t even fathom or would ever want to. The moral of this story is, if you play with fire long enough, you will get burned. However, if you have the protection of the BIG GUYS, you won’t get scared!  It is strong, sad, moving and TRUE! I rate Lord of War a B+ as well. For your snacks, I suggest a huge tub of popcorn and some POP ROCKS candy to go with the bang of this film…
P.S: If you are looking for a most enjoyable, light, adorable, sweet, cute, original, fun and spiritual film… run and see Just Like Heaven, starring Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon.

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