Lord of War was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, of Gattaca fame. The film was made on a budget of $42 million and became a big box office hit upon its release. Because of the political nature of the film, which accuses the United States of supporting gun runners, no US-based studios backed the film and it was instead funded by international studios.
The story follows a Ukrainian immigrant named Yuri Orlov, who lives with his family in New York City. He works in his family's restaurant with his younger brother, who is the chef, but soon finds a better career selling guns to local gangsters. After selling a few Uzi submachine guns, Yuri decides to think bigger and goes to war zones, where he is able to buy massive heaps of used guns and sell them by the pound.
Despite intense competition from other gun runners, Yuri manages to claw his way up the ladder. He makes sales to everyone from South African dictators to European military leaders, amassing a fortune that allows him to win the heart of a model named Ava Fontaine. They get married and start a family, but eventually she begins to question his profession when an INTERPOL agent named Jack Valentine starts poking around their building. In the end, Yuri is forced to choose between his love for selling guns and his family.
Yuri's brother, Vitaly, occasionally helps him on the gun runs, but feels great conflicts after seeing their customers using weapons to kill innocent and helpless people. He becomes addicted to cocaine and spends the rest of his life in and out of rehab. Unlike his brother Vitaly, Yuri appears to show no guilt regarding his sales and the resulting death.
The main character of Yuri Orlov is played by Nicolas Cage, in one of his most serious roles. His brother, Vitaly, is played by Jared Leto and his wife, Ava Fontaine, is played by Bridget Moynahan. The INTERPOL agent constantly on Yuri's tail, Jack Valentine, is played by Ethan Hawke. Another important character is Simeon Weisz, Yuri's top competitor, who is played by Ian Holm.
The acting in this film is really great. I didn't think anybody in the film was a bad actor and all of the performances felt genuine and sincere. Nicolas Cage performs his role with a chilling detachment, making it hard to sympathize with him. Jared Leto does a great job of showing the guilt that his character feels for not helping people that he sees in trouble. Bridget Moynahan is beautiful and does a great job towards the end of portraying a wife that is horrified to discover the true source of her husband's wealth.
There are a lot of great special effects in this film, including the opening sequence, which follows a rifle shell from its manufacture to delivery and usage. The opening credits set the dark tone for the rest of the film, which features something of a dark and disturbing humor. Some other great scenes include one where a plane has to make an emergency landing on a crowded load to evade an INTERPOL jet aircraft.
The soundtrack for "Lord of War" features a large assortment of past hit songs as well as an original and dark score. Many of the songs reflect the very violent business that Yuri is involved in, including an anti-war song by Buffalo Springfield and "The Ride of the Valkyries" by Richard Wagner. Other songs are played to enhance the cultural feel of the various countries that Yuri visits.
Overall, I felt that this movie was fantastic and one of the best films of 2005. Everything about the film was great and it has a great message for viewers. The gun running profession is definitely a controversial one and I think the film accurately reflects the conflicts surrounding it. A gun runner would have to be cold and detached in order to be able to continue that line of work in spite of the deadly results.