LORD OF WAR (Andrew Niccol). 122 minutes. Opens Friday (September 16). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Screenwriter/director Andrew Niccol 's earlier films (Gattaca, The Truman Show, Simone) are studies of outsiders, men ostracized by their imagined environments' flawed logic. His 04 script for the Spielberg-directed The Terminal kept that isolation theme strong but saw Niccol transitioning from otherworldly what-ifs to the cracks in the real world's logic.
Lord Of War casts Nicolas Cage as the loner in a very sad story of international arms trafficking during and after the Cold War.
The tale of Cage's character, unlikely global gun-trading mogul Yuri Orlov, is purportedly based on true events. But Niccol's glib, urbane writing/directing style gives his story an inappropriately outlandish, wacky edge.
That's what's so unnerving about Lord Of War. The first three-quarters of this broad, dense, violent, beautifully shot film treats a major global tragedy, a trade that's enabled warring African tribes to massacre each other, with a bubbly tone better suited to a clever romantic comedy.
And the audience is led to side with the bad guy, since all Cage's neurotic mannerisms (in full force here) and witty dialogue paint Orlov as the world's most likeable genocidal murderer.
Niccol and his film are way too bright for this tonal misalignment not to be deliberate. I guess that's why the movie is still clunking around in my head.