Andrew Niccol, the writer-director of Gattaca (as well as the writer of The Truman Show and The Terminal), shines his usual cynicism on the subject of gunrunning in Lord of War. The movie is an amalgam of compelling visuals, fascinating vocational details and often hollow didacticism.
The film's stunning opening sequence, in which we observe the life cycle of a bullet from the bullet's point of view ' as it's manufactured, shipped, sold and finally lodged between the eyes of an African kid ' is a tour de force. The sequence instantly sucks us into the gun-crazy world of Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage). As a young man searching for his purpose in life, Orlov has the revelation that guns are what makes the world go round. He even compares the thrill of his first gun sale to the thrill of first sex.
Orlov knows that the world's demand for guns will never wane and that selling them is the surest path to eternal riches. He will sell to anyone; he takes no sides in political disputes, unlike his competitor Simeon Weisz (Ian Holm). The details of Orlov's business are riveting, but Lord of War give short shrift to its secondary characters. More about the difference between Weisz (who claims to be in the business to make governments, not money) and Orlov would have been welcome, as would more fleshed-out depictions of Orlov's trophy wife (Bridget Moynahan), literal brother-in-arms (Jared Leto) and the dogged Interpol agent Valentine (Ethan Hawke) who plays cat to Orlov's canary.