Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Nicolas Cage……….Yuri Orlov
Bridget Moynahan……….Ava Fontaine
Jared Leto……….Vitaly Orlov
Ethan Hawke……….Jack Valentine
Sammi Rotibi……….Andre Baptiste Jr
Eamonn Walker……….Andre Baptiste Sr.
The American Dream is something everyone wants but few attain. The goal is elusive, and making it big by any means necessary is a theme throughout cinematic history. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) in Goodfellas pursued it becoming a gangster, George Jung (Johnny Depp) tried for it by dealing cocaine in Blow, and in the same vein Yuri Orlov (Nicholas Cage) pursues the American dream in Lord of War.
Yuri doesn’t deal drugs or steal cars; he does something a bit more innocuous: he sells guns. And he just doesn’t sell to democracies and other lawful states either. He sells them to every army in the world except the Salvation Army, he dryly notes, and one can only imagine that if they needed some machine guns he’d be first in line to put an M-60 in the hands of every single nun who ever wanted one. Yuri has made his fortune by turning his back on working in the family restaurant and providing guns to anyone with the money to pay for them. It has allowed him to have the woman of his dreams in Ava (Bridget Moynahan), a failed model turned actress. He has wealth, cars, and nearly everything a man can ask for in his life. What he doesn’t have, though, is a true peace of mind. And that’s the question Lord of War has Yuri ponder as he goes back through his glory days to the present day. And it’s quite an impressive venture, starting with the underplayed performance of its lead.
Cage has a knack for being able to find roles that require a certain amount of finesse in order to play them. Yuri isn’t a terrible man, but he isn’t a good one either. He sells because it’s what he does, and he’s good at it, but the sort of pleasure he gets from being good at his job is short-lived. Having to deal with men like Andre Baptiste Sr. (Eamonn Walker) and his son Jr. (Sammi Rotibi); Sr. is the president of a small African country who has enforced a brutal regime in part because of the weapons he gets from Yuri. While Sr. regales in his brutality and marvels in its splendor provided to him by the working end of a Soviet-made AK-47, Yuri keeps finding that selling arms is something that doesn’t settle well with his stomach. It’s a powerful performance by a man who has made a career out of them; Cage’s deadpan delivery and understated performance drive the character in a much deeper way than if he was overdoing it. Yuri isn’t a man who is bad by nature; he’s a salesman in the classic sense, selling a product in high demand. He breaks and bends the law to supply fascists and other totalitarian regimes with the instruments of their oppression, but it’s a cold, detached sort of way. It’s part of the tricks of the trade, like a car salesman manipulating data in his finance system to get his customer ten dollars less per month on a car loan.
Credit Andrew Niccol with providing an uncompromising view of his main character. It would be easy to try and make his life into something glamorous or exciting. Yuri is dealing with not so nice people, trying to avoid detection by Interpol and its agents, (chief amongst them Ethan Hawke’s Agent Valentine), and he isn’t some naÃƒÂ¯ve kid trying to make the world a better place by running guns. Yuri is a man who wants money, pure and simple, and running guns is a means to an end. There is no glamour, no rock star lifestyle to be found; it’s just a gritty world of drugs, diamonds and gun deals.