Lord Of War

War, war is stupid
And, people are stupid…

Actually, that’s about it. Man sells nasty weapons to nasty people to do nasty things with. But, the biggest and nastiest gun runners are nation states! And, that’s it. This is not me extrapolating a message from the film, that is the actual plot – there’s no cat ‘n’ mouse race against time stuff dressing it up.

Director Andrew Niccol is kinda king of the hi-concept, more thinking end of Hollywood (S1m0ne, The Trueman Show, Gattaca) but with variable results (S1m0ne, The Trueman Show, Gattaca). But what’s on show here is very much his background in advertising. This film is very beautifully framed and shot. And (IMO) it manages to just about stop short of fetishising the very weaponry it sets out to condemn.

This is a film of broad, broad brushstrokes. For the title sequence we follow a bullet from manufacture to it’s lodging in the head of a young boy. Problem is we see this from the POV of the bullet which just reminds of the Naked Gun* titles. Not the desired effect, I’m sure. As clearly denoted by the music used over the sequence we get the oh so incredibly subtle choice of Buffalo Springfield‘s For What It’s Worth (You see what I mean about them brushstrokes? In fact, at one point when a character goes on a binge with a bale of cocaine that they’ve taken as payment from some Colombian drug baron they wheel out Clapton‘s…you guessed it…)

And then there’s the Dialogue. Seriously, at one point an Interpol operative says to Nicolas Cage‘s character I would tell you to go to hell, but I think you’re already there. and, this is one of the least cringeworthy howlers that pepper the entire movie. Luckily, these are restricted to the dialogue and not the narrative voiceover that covers the whole thing. Delivered in his own inimitable style by a super-laconic Cage. (For other proof of his ability to carry off stuff like this see the first 10 minutes of the CoensRaising Arizona, sheer genius all round.) I often wonder if Cage is a love/hate presence in a film. I for one fall into the former category, and have done since I first saw Birdy over twenty years ago. Oh, he’s been involved in some turkeys, but he has a sense of screen prescence that seems lacking in many of his peers. If, however, you fall into the other camp, there’s a lotta Cage in this film – it just might not be for you.

Interesting to see Ethan Hawke (as Cage’s Interpol operative nemesis) looking like a smaller distinctly emaciated Nick Nolte. Always forget that the boy can actually act.

It passed some time well enough.

* Looking for a link for this led me to thinking about the superb Police Squad series again. Still no DVD release. I keep meaning to do a list for Amazon of stuff that for no good reason is not available on DVD (or not Region 2). e.g. Point Blank – what’s that all about?

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Written by Tony Kiernan

27 October 2005 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Film

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