Hobgoblin Journal

Film Review - The Lord of War

By Ian MacDonald

The Hobgoblin - 8 (Online) 2006

This film did not so much as inspire me as confirm my cynicism about moralistic tirades against arms dealing. Having said that it is a sharp, witty farce which exposes directly the ultimate dehumanising effect of global capitalism i.e. temporarily powerful humans savagely murdering permanently powerless people often in the context of an AIDS-ridden, drug ridden, poverty-ridden society.

Orlov played by Nicholas Cage has escaped from the poverty of the Ukraine to New York and rapidly progresses from selling arms to local youth to a worldwide operation often acting as a foil for various states, notably the USA itself.

The contradiction between the objective situation, vividly expressed in the opening shots, and the subjective - Orlov’s revulsion of actually killing anybody himself - is resolved when a brutal dictator encourages him to pull the trigger with him, and kill an enemy, another arms dealer. This he does.

Whilst Orlov’s humanity goes down the pan, his wife’s is going in the opposite direction. There is a scene when she has realised what Orlov is and she sits there naked not wanting to wear or touch anything that has been bought by blood money.

The film itself keeps the audience engaged because it is funny. It is dry sardonic humour directed against the hypocrisy of American Capitalism as it employees people like Orlov to supply various regimes because they cannot be seen to be doing it themselves. You stop laughing however when toward the end you witness some of effects of the trade in Rwanda. As Morrisey once sang, this seems to be, “…to close to home and too near the bone…”

Whether the end is a surprise or not may depend on your point of view, but is commendable that the Five Permanent Security Members are exposed as selling a lot more arms than Orlov. What is worrying about the film is that Orlov is almost portrayed as helpless and having no choice about getting shed loads of money out of other people’s misery. He doesn’t take responsibility for his own inhumanity but rationalises his actions as, “ I am good at it,” even though he loses his family in the process.

The only hope in the film seems to be his wife leaving him but ultimately betraying him to a cop, who doesn’t realise he is a cog in a much bigger game.

As the film draws to an end Orlov is saying to border guards somewhere in the Sahara that his crates are full of umbrellas, which they accept with a grin when he bribes them with dollars. Cynical laughs all round and a good film but of course the point is to change it, the world that is, and that, the film does not address!!
6 December 2005