Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, “Lord of War” is a film released in the year 2005. The film is primarily concerned with the tragic effects of arms trading, especially in the undeveloped countries where these arms find use in the never-ending civil conflicts, and portrays the unsettled lifestyles and precarious living of individual arms dealers (Hamid 53).
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The film depicts the intricate and wicked web of illegal arms trading and its global prevalence, reaching all continents and many nations in both developed and undeveloped world. The film, “Lord of War”, challenges the five major arms dealers in the world – the US, the U.K, Russia, France and China, to play a more proactive role in the reducing, or altogether eliminating the trade in illegal arms. Some characters and events in the film reflect actual historical occurrences.
“Lord of War” traces the life of Yuri Orlov, an American with Ukrainian roots, as he joins the illegal arms trade and depicts his steady rise to being a globetrotting arms dealer with contacts and connections in both the law enforcement agencies like Interpol, and the illegal arms trade industry. Yuri partners with his brother, Vitaly, and together they begin to sale and supply weapons to various clients both nationally and internationally.
However, the unpredictable and uncertain lifestyle of arms dealers eventually eats into Vitaly’s conscience, and he is killed in West Africa when he tries to prevent the sale of weapons to rebels whom he witnesses massacring a mother and her child with machetes. Yuri soldiers on alone, and despite being abandoned by his family, he elects to continue with his business and lifestyle; a business he describes as a necessary evil.
The film’s purpose(s), core message, and targeted audience are further examined. The film has several purposes; the first is to show the tragic market-route that weapons manufactured in the developed countries take; eventually ending up killing young child soldiers in civil wars and rebellion conflicts the children have no clue about. In the beginning of the film, the trail of a bullet manufactured in USSR and ends up killing a child soldier coerced into participating in a war/civil conflict in Africa, depicts the global connection of the trade.
The second purpose of the film is to portray the connection between illegal arms trade and other illegal and exploitative dealings like trade in war diamonds, or ‘blood diamonds’. In the film, Andre Baptist Sr, Liberia’s dictator, buys weapons from Yuri only to supply them to rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange of diamonds mined by unwilling, forced and enslaved miners. Trade in illegal arms funds conflicts for the illegal trade in diamonds to proceed without regulations in a vicious cycle.
The film’s ultimate purpose is to urge action from world powers the US, the U.K, France, Russia and China, and to create awareness in the governments of these countries in appreciating the unwitting role they play as the world’s largest exporters of arms, in fueling the illegal arms trade, and the attendant conflicts shown in the film. A postscript at the end of the movie expressly communicates this message, and effectively summarizes the film’s purposes.
Personally, the film was a revelation and I felt enlightened and yet angered when I realized the role that western arms manufacturing companies plays in contributing to deaths in Africa, South America, and other conflict-torn regions. The poignant moments in the film for me were the death of the child solder by a bullet manufactured in Russia, and the killing by a machete of the mother and her child by a Liberian solder.
These two scenes conveyed the ultimate wickedness and inhumane nature of the conflicts thriving on the illegal sale of arms. I feel that the director succeeded in his aim of stirring righteous anger in the audience, and I feel that more effort should be exerted in curbing illegal arms trading.
In conclusion, “Lord of War” is obviously much more than an action-thriller film for thrill-seeking box office audiences – it makes a powerful statement that illegal arms trade should end.
Hamid, Rahul. “Lord of War.” Cineaste 31.2 (2006): 52-55.