Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Gun Show

I really wanted to see Lord of War when it came out last year, but by the time I got around to seeing it, it had already left the theaters. I finally caught it on DVD this past weekend and I was very impressed. For starters, casting Nicolas Cage as an international arms dealer was a stroke of genius. He played the part of the Yuri Orlov, an amoral Ukranian-American arms dealer, with the same wit and humor that you expect from any character being portrayed by Nicholas Cage. It may be that Cage is not a very good actor and he can only play one personality type. I don't agree with this assessment, but even if it is true, it works to advantage of the movie because it makes it very difficult to root against Cage's character. By getting the audience to side with the gun runner, the movie forces the audience to examine the moral questions raised by the film instead of having the answers dictated to them directly.

The other thing that I really liked about the movie was the time period in which it took place. The story begins in the final days of the Cold War and ends right around 9/11. I don't watch a lot of movies, so I may be way off, but it seems to me that there are not a lot of geopolitical thrillers that take place in the post-Cold War/pre-9/11 interregnum. It's a lot easier to make a thriller when you can draw a neat line between good guys and bad guys. In reality, that line is probably never as clean as we hope it is, but it's a lot easier to draw that line when the audience already has some preconceived notions about the players on the screen before the movie starts. It's harder to say who the bad guys are in this movie. If Orlov is a bad guy for running guns, what does that make the warlords he sells them to?

Lord of War thankfully refuses to tie up all of the loose ends into a neat little conclusion. I think that people will come out of this movie with different conclusions based on the way that they see the world. My conclusion was basically that man's inhumanity towards man knows few limits. Ultimately, there is nothing much we can do about it, but it wouldn't hurt to try once in a while.


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