Cage & Leto are Brothers in Arms
"Lord of War" is basically the story of a Ukrainian immigrant who goes from rags to riches by spotting an opportunity by becoming an arms dealer. It sounds like a rather serious movie which could make some heavy comments on the rights and wrongs of being a gun runner where in fact "Lord of War" is all rather amusing and very entertaining. The reason being is that director and writer Andrew Niccol fills "Lord of War" with wit so that we grow to like Yuri this gun runner whilst also highlighting the perverse nature of arms dealing. It's not what you would call an action movie, despite some moments of action and it's not really that dramatic or thrilling but it is smart with clever writing and a brilliant narration from Nicolas Cage as Yuri.
Yuri (Nicolas Cage - National Treasure), an Ukrainian immigrant living in Brooklyn, feels like his life isn't going anywhere until he witnesses gangsters killing each other, it is that point that he realises the demand for weapons. And so starts Yuri's rise as he goes from dealing his first gun to becoming a major arms dealer with his weapons represented in many of the world's wars. But being a gun runner has its problems such as an enthusiastic Interpol Agent, a maniac warlord and his insane son as well as his own brother's drug dependency. But Yuri is a smooth operator who keeps all the wheels spinning as he tries to remain one step ahead of everyone which also keeping up a pretence to his wife.
The basis of "Lord of War" is very much a rags to riches story all but an unconventional one as we watch Yuri becoming rich and powerful by dealing weapons and in following the end of the cold war he has a lot of weapons to deal. Being unconventional makes it rather captivating because it feels wrong to warm to Yuri, a man who cuts dodgy deals to get military weapons to sell to whomever with no real care for the consequences, but we do. Through that wonderful narration and clever writing we get drawn into Yuri's life his troubles with his drug addicted brother, his problems with rival arms dealers as well as with a tyrannical war lord and we end up liking him. We even like him when he is unfaithful to his wife because as he says when he makes love to his wife he makes her feel like the only one. In reality it's all wrong, we shouldn't like this man, we shouldn't like the way he avoids prosecution and often capture from Interpol agents but we do.
What is amusing is that in this rags to riches storyline there doesn't appear to be much which happens or at least nothing that dramatic or action packed. Instead this is a smart movie about how Yuri goes from selling his first gun to becoming a major arms dealer with weapons in many of the world's war. And as such it is almost insightful as to how the whole weapons dealing business works, from the back-handers, the double identities as well as the rules such as never getting shot by one of your own weapons. It's all so amusing thanks to the dry wit of the narration yet at the same time it makes you realise how duplicitous the whole thing is especially in the big twist during the climax. As such it has to be said that Andrew Niccol does a marvellous job not just with the direction but with the writing because he manages to mix being insightful with being amusing without ever making a huge political statement on the rights and wrongs rather highlighting the perverse nature of it.
Now Nicolas Cage has always been a favourite actor of mine but there have been some bad movies and bad performances in his portfolio, fortunately "Lord of War" is not one of them. Here we have Cage in brilliant form delivering a mix of dead pan with quirky whilst creating a character who oozes charisma. Yet in Yuri he creates this character which is a blend of confidence with a touch of insecurity which is part of the reason why we warm to him. And to be honest "Lord of War" is all about Yuri and Nicolas Cage's performance and so whilst you have Bridget Moynahan as his wife Ava, Jared Leto as his brother Vitaly and Ian Holm as rival arms dealer Simeon Weisz their performances along with that of Ethan Hawke as the Interpol agent whilst solid are over shadowed by Cage's.
What this all boils down to is that "Lord of War" is a very good movie and a bit of an unusual one at that. For a movie about the rags to riches life of a gun dealer it feels wrong to actually like the central character but that is what happens and through the clever writing we end up siding with him whilst also learning about the perverse nature of international gun running.