Lord of War is a film that seems to polarise reviewers. They either love the unflinching portrayal of what being an arms dealer is actually about, or they can’t handle the redemption it has no intention of genuinely offering.
Myself I liked it, if only for being a film of Nic Cage’s that didn’t go entirely off the rails or degenerate into self parody. Some have read between the lines of Lord of War and seen satire. Yes, there are some intentionally funny parts in the movie, but I’m not naïve enough to think that it’s pushing an alternate reality; people die every day in the world because those selling weapons have no qualms about who they sell them to. And that’s what this film is all about.
Cage’s Yuri Orlov character is charming, imaginative, yet trapped by his career choices. He runs the increasingly delicate balancing act of working with criminals and killers, following some basic rules about getting paid and not being shot with his own merchandise.
But he’s playing by an entirely self formulated moral code, that will ultimately have drastic consequences for those close to him. It’s told in a camera-aware style, with voiceover narrative links delivered in Cage’s own engaging laconic drawl. It’s not his best film by a long way, but equally it’s just as distant from his worse outings.
The supporting cast of Ethan Hawke as an FBI agent on Cage’s trail and Jared Leto as his impulsive brother both deliver sterling performances, as does Sammi Rotibi as the wholly psychopathic André Baptiste Jr. When I first saw the movie I thought this might be an actual historical character, but I’ve since realised that it’s a pastiche of various African dictators, most notably the Liberian despot, Charles Taylor.
A real irony of this production is that to get the tanks, guns and other military hardware that appears in the movie they worked with real gun runners, who supplied this all from their current inventory.
Enough of the movie, what’s the Blu-ray like? In a word ‘grainy’, and it’s not the media’s fault but the style the film was shot in, using natural lighting and fast film stock. Unfortunately Blu-ray just highlights this and presents some artistic chromatic tinting as faults rather than style choices. These become distracting, especially on a good 1080p capable TV.
That’s not to say the transfer isn’t a decent one; it is technically a very good job. There are many scenes with dark and light high contrast environments and none of these seem murky or indistinct. It’s certainly better than the DVD, especially the nasty US version that’s in the wrong aspect ratio, but it’s let down slightly by choices made with the source material.
Sound is basic Dolby Digital 5.1, which is fine but not the DTS-ES 6.1 track they originally put with this when they released it two years ago with no extras in the US. You either get extras, or the full-on audio track, it seems.
The extras are exactly as per the 2 disc DVD version, including an audio commentary from director Andrew Niccol, ten deleted scenes, a selection of interviews and two featurettes. One of these is about the making of the movie, and the other is a documentary about the arms trade. They are 20 and 15 minutes, respectively.
What’s genuinely disappointing is that all the bonus material is in standard definition scaled up for the Blu-ray, so no effort was made in its presentation.
What’s even more annoying is the start of the disc is stuffed with promo material for other movies, including the one on the disc!
Hey why don’t you buy this? Oh, hang on you already did!
I don’t mind trailers as selectable options, but making them auto-play at the start is repeating the very worst crimes of DVD. I’m of the opinion that Blu-ray is a cut above DVD, so I wish they’d not treat it like potential bargain bin fodder.
I still like the movie Lord of War and its underlying message, but that doesn’t make it a poster-boy for Blu-ray technology.