Wednesday, September 27, 2006

DVD Review

Lord of War (2005), dir. Andrew Niccol

"For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a gunrunner!"

If Martin Scorsese had directed a film about a guiltless gunrunner called Yuri Orlov it might have started something like that. Moral responsibility? Who cares? This is a film, entertain me!

At the outset Orlov claims that he is not going to tell us (the audience) a pack of lies to make us like him, he says, "I'm just gonna tell you what happened." This is a problem. When first person narration is done well, the film reflects the character. Unfortunately, Niccols makes Orlov too transparent a narrator for this to be the case. Niccols seems more interested in the statistics he litters the film with than he is in creating a compelling story to put them in. For that, you need characters and their lies; this film has too many facts.

What Lord of War amounts to is an interesting political lecture on the business of gunrunning, though Mark Steel would have certainly included more jokes. For a supposed satire the film is surprisingly dry. I think I laughed twice. Dr. Strangelove doesn’t pull any punches and it’s hilarious as a result.

A major problem is that Niccols doesn’t seem sure where he stands on the issues his film addresses. He never allows the viewer to indulge in the sense of fun and gleeful indulgence Orlov’s job allows him. Nor, when it comes to delivering him his inevitable comeuppance, does the film have any satirical bite, seemingly, for fear of turning off the casual Friday night audience. In that respect Lord of War is similar to Niccol’s biggest success to date, The Truman Show. The sense of an interesting idea that falls short in execution is fast becoming a Niccols trademark.

There is a really good film about this subject waiting to be made: a darker more incisive film than Lord of War dares to be. Mark this one up as a missed opportunity.


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