Lord of War (2005)

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Released 6-Jun-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Director Andrew Niccol
Featurette-Making Of
Short Film-Inside the International Arms Trade
Deleted Scenes
Short Film-Amnesty International Spot With Nicholas Cage
Trailer-The Da Vinci Code, The Detonator, End Game,
Trailer-Fear Itself:Dark Memories, Freedomland, Layer Cake,
Trailer-The Pink Panther(2006), Second In Command
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 116:43
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Andrew Niccol
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Nicolas Cage
Bridget Moynahan
Jared Leto
Shake Tukhmanyan
Jean-Pierre Nshanian
Jared Burke
Eric Uys
David Shumbris
Stewart Morgan
Jasper Lenz
Kobus Marx
Stephan De Abreu
Jeremy Crutchley
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Antonio Pinto
A.R. Rahman
Nathan Whitehead


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English for the Hearing Impaired Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Brilliant opening sequence.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

 

"There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation. That's one firearm for every twelve people on the planet.
The only question is: How do we arm the other 11?"

    If that quote, from the opening of the movie, doesn't provoke in you a strange mixture of equal parts humour and disgust then Lord of War is perhaps not the movie for you. For the movie is a black comedy about the global arms trade which also doubles as a satire on the American Dream.

    Lord of War begins with a credit sequence that both defines the movie and displays a great level of artistry. As the credits begin we see a single bullet as it makes its way down the assembly line, through Soviet hands and then to West Africa where it is used with horrible consequences. The skill of director Andrew Niccol is to draw us as an audience into the manufacturing process. We admire both the determination of the bullet through its struggles and the style of the film maker only to have the admiration stick in the throat when reality literally hits home.

    Closest to Three Kings in tone (but without the warm fuzzies) Lord of War presents an affable arms dealer. He has no conscience. If he wasn't selling guns somebody else would, he rationalises. In a satire on corporate America and the great American Dream, he sells arms not out of insane greed because he is "good at it".

    The lord of war of the title is Yuri Orlof, played by Nicolas Cage. He is a Ukrainian immigrant who has come to America with his parents and brother Vasily (Jared Leto). Living in Little Odessa in New York, Yuri witnesses a Russian mafia don defending himself against some would-be assassins. In a flash he realises that the supply of weapons presents an inexhaustible business opportunity.

    Starting small, he ships a few guns here and there. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, his plans increase exponentially - he has a permanently sozzled uncle in the Ukrainian military with the keys to a government armoury packed with the universal military currency - the AK47.

    From then on Yuri is launched into the stratosphere of international arm sales, earning himself untold wealth. He uses the money to snare his childhood idol played by Bridget Moynahan. His efforts to involve his brother in the business, however, fail miserably. For one, he has a conscience and second the access to money and drugs turns him into a hopeless addict. Funnily enough, as an audience member seeing Viataly out of control we think to ourselves : "Why can't he be more like his brother the nice arms dealer" !

    The film is an adventure of sorts as Yuri faces many obstacles on his path to success, not least of which are his clients, particularly a dangerous West African ruler loosely based on Charles Taylor. All the time he is being dogged by the worst kind of Interpol agent - the unbribable kind, played by Ethan Hawke. Hawke gives the film its only chance of a moral centre as every attempt he makes to relentlessly hunt down the likable Yuri and prevent him from shipping his weapons is met with frustration. As Yuri takes pains to point out, his friends have a great deal of power. After all, it is the developed nations of the world who are the leading arms dealers. The United States, he points out, ships as much arms overseas in a day as he can manage in a year.

    Nicolas Cage inhabits almost every frame of the movie and gives a compelling performance as a man in a moral vacuum. The tale is partly told in humorous and yet chilling voice-overs. Describing the world's leading weapon, the AK47, he gives a quip-laden description with some blood-curdling bits of information : "It's so easy, even a child could use it, and they do."

    Nicolas Cage has given some fine performances in the past, in films such as Raising Arizona and the Oscar winning Leaving Las Vegas. Although deprived of the latter's dramatic depth his performance in Lord of War is on par with his finest. He lives and breathes Yuri giving every scene charm, humour and irony in spades. New Zealand born screen writer-director Andrew Niccol is not a prodigious director, having helmed only 2 previous movies; the future drama Gattaca (also with Hawke) and the satirical drama S1m0ne. However, he was also the writer of the Truman Show and the Tom Hanks/Spielberg movie The Terminal.

    Lord of War failed to get funding and was financed via a laundry list of producers. It likewise failed to generate much interest at the box office which is a shame. It is a bold movie which deserves to be seen.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Lord of War was shot on 35 mm film at an original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It comes to DVD in a 2.40:1 ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    It is pleasing to say that the transfer of this movie is close to reference quality.

    The cinematographer, Amir M. Mokri, who previously shot films such as The Joy Luck Club, The Salton Sea and Taking Lives is crisp and beautiful to look at despite the frequently disturbing imagery. In the director's commentary Niccol points out the struggles he had to put the film together on a comparatively small budget of approximately $40 million. This is one film where every dollar can be seen on the screen. Cleverly using various South African locations he has created images of war-torn Liberia in West Africa, the North African desert and the West Indies.

    There is not a speck of dust on the source print. Sharpness and shadow detail are superb. The colour palette is expansive and the colours are rendered beautifully.

    Dip in anywhere in the film for examples of the quality of the original film source and its transfer.

    There are subtitles for the hearing impaired which are clear and easy to read.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Lord of War comes to DVD with a Dolby 5.1 (448 Kb/s) sound track.

    Using some of the Matrix team in the sound department was a crucial step as the overall sound design is excellent and the sound effects are rendered effectively. Take for example the scene at 16.54 where the metallic sound of an AK47 firing in slow motion morph into individual cash register ka-chings! as Yuri sees the shooting for what it is - a source of new business.

    Lip synch is uniformly good, even in some of the outdoor scenes where looping was required. The dialogue in the movie is clear and the whole soundtrack speaks of quality post production.

    Surround sound use is handled appropriately and there are times when the sub-woofer roars into life such as when Yuri's cargo plane is chased by fighter jets at (66.00) although it should be said that the film has a lot of small arms fire rather than Hollywood explosions.

    The soundtrack consists of some quite haunting original music by Antonio Pinto utilising international sounds as well as a combination of well known songs and regional music. It is an effective companion to the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    The main menu comes up with the sound of bullet firing and the ubiquitous AK47.

Audio Commentary - Director Andrew Niccol

    This is a fascinating commentary from a clever and resourceful director. He is a practical film maker despite the unusual nature of some of his projects. He takes us through the various pressures involved in making the film without Hollywood backing including the resourcefulness of the location scout who was able to find locations within South Africa appropriate to other parts of the continent and render them convincingly using minimal changes such as costuming to suggest the new location.

    Some of the budgetary constraints are quite humorous. In one short scene two men enter a bar and the action transfers from the street to the interior of the bar. The street scene was shot in New York and the bar scene in South Africa. Rather than flying the two actors for their short scene, he used different actors for the interior shot hoping no one would notice - I didn't. It was fascinating if quite unsettling to learn that to make the film Niccol had to sometimes dip into the murky pond of arms dealing itself using a series of tanks lined up for one shot (apparently he had to notify NATO so that satellite imagery wouldn't suggest forces marshalling for an attack!). In another he had to buy 30,000 guns from an arms dealer and, of course, the plane which was used to deliver shipments of arms in the movie was borrowed from another arms dealer.

Featurette-Making Of

    This featurette does go behind the film making process, although not too deeply. In one interesting scene we saw how they prepped an actor for a scene where his dead body is picked at by an African vulture. The actor displayed great application to his craft by lying still whilst this fearsome bird was climbing over him.

Short Film - Inside the International Arms Trade

    This is a short but fascinating documentary on the real global arms trade using footage from various West African nations and occasional excerpts from the film. A series of commentators describe the problems, both legal and financial, trying to shut down the arms trade. Although it could have gone longer and had greater depth this was a worthy addition to the features on the DVD.

Deleted Scenes

    These are a short series of scenes some wholly and others partially deleted from the movie. With the exception of the last two scenes (which feature further explanation of the climax) the film has not been harmed by the deletion of these scenes.

Short Film - Amnesty International spot with Nicolas Cage

    This is a one minute spot where Nicolas Cage, obviously having thrown off the character of Yuri, describes the horror and inhumanity of the global arms trade saying that he and we should support Amnesty International in its efforts to restrict the sale of arms world wide.

Trailer

    Included on the DVD are 8 trailers for other movies including The Da Vinci Code.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Lord of War comes in an amazing four different editions in Region 1 including a full screen edition, a widescreen edition and a 2 DVD set. The only real competition for the Region 4 edition is the 2 DVD set. The only addition to the features offered here is a guide to the weapons featured in the film. However, the website for the movie has a number of games including "Name That Weapon" so I can't see any reason to prefer the Region 1 edition over the local product.

Summary

    Lord of War treats a serious subject in a humorous fashion which could be off-putting for some viewers. For my part the horrible amoral logic espoused by Yuri goes a long way to explain why this trade goes on and is nigh on impossible to stop. The movie is funny and chilling in equal parts helped greatly by an absorbing performance by Nicolas Cage. The sound and vision of the DVD transfer is superlative. If Three Kings and Catch 22 tickled your fancy then Lord of War hits all the same buttons and is an enjoyable movie experience.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, June 19, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP300, using Component output
DisplayNEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Region 1 - 2 disc set has dts 6.1 - donsrule REPLY POSTED
R1 original pressing was 1.78 aspect ratio -
Great film... terrible compression - UberAspie
Best movie in years & Region A BD also has DTS 6.1 - gRANT (Read my bio, mmm... uncompressed surround audio)