The following is a sample movie review on the movie Lord of War, a popular 2005 drama film that portrayed the life and career of an arms dealer played by Nicolas Cage.
Lord of War: Social Problems
Illegal arms’ dealing has been a consistent issue in history. As conflicts begin and end, countries always stock up on supplies to ensure that they have a competitive edge in battles. Often times, the source of these arms are private dealers who have purchased them from the end of a previous war or from some government looking to get rid of them. While governments work diligently to stop these illegal transactions and document them, that is not always the case. Even worse, these illegal weapons come into the hands of terrorists or ruthless dictators that use them to commit genocide and other injustices to innocent people. The 2005 action drama Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage, depicts the career of an arms dealer who travels around the world and sells arms to various countries and individuals.
The movie begins with Yuri Orlov, a Ukrainian immigrant whose parents own a restaurant. He has an epiphany of the value of guns when he sees a mobster kill two would-be assassins. As Yuri begins selling guns all over the world, often times to both sides of the war, he marries a model named Ava Fontaine and has one child. As the cold war ended in 1991, Yuri quickly developed relationships with military leaders and began selling arms to Liberia’s ruthless dictator, Andre Baptiste Sr. This dictator was infamous for using children as soldiers in his war. After nearly getting caught by a US agent, his wife found out about his career. The movie climaxed at the point where Yuri was caught and then released because he explained that his service was a “necessary evil.” Despite being involved in such a despicable business that helps kill innocent people, the movie emphasized the point that major first world governments are nonetheless primary exporters of firearms as well.
Throughout the movie, many different people and institutions were involved. Obviously, the most important groups and organizations were the actual governments themselves. In Liberia, the dictators used the guns to arm children with weapons to kill others. In Russia, Orlov developed relationships with military leaders who weren’t necessarily committing any crimes themselves. These military leaders were simply trying to get rid of their excess weapons after the war had ended. Orlov, as an individual, worked primarily with these other governments that were run by dictators as well. Dictators and leaders from third world countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia and other African countries were his chief customers.
Interestingly enough, other major players involved in the movie were not just the Yuri and the evil governments that purchased them. Often, the US Government as well as other first-world countries were involved as well. Yuri would purchase these arms legitimately from them and then sell them in a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell manner.” The fact that such a diverse group of individuals were involved suggests that the major social problems involved both legitimate and illegitimate institutions.
Chief Social Problems: Genocide
Of the many social problems in the movie, the chief ones were genocide, dictatorships and crime. As shown by various scenes in the movie, the issue of genocide and the killing of innocent people by soldiers was consistent. In one particular scene, the guns were used to kill a mother and child. Since most of the wars fought in Africa were over ethnic grounds, it is safe to assume that genocide was a major social issue that was illuminated by the film. Even worse, since Orlov sold arms to both sides of the conflict in numerous occasions, the ethical issue of picking the “right side” was clearly not addressed. Selling the arms was strictly a profit driven decision for Orlov. Moreover, the issue of dictatorship and evil governments was also present. As many of the transactions were paid with drugs or blood diamonds, the governments were clearly not using legitimate ways of funding their wars.
The archaic and violent behavior of the African leaders in Liberia also epitomized the stereotype of an evil dictatorship. As Orlov was selling guns, he knew that the dictators were using it to arm children and gain hegemony over people that did not have a means to defend themselves. Clearly, force was used to gain control. Finally, the problem of crime is intertwined into the plot of the movie. Orlov’s dealings with other people often involved masking the identity of his ships and hiding his cargo. This represents the intense level of crime involved within the movie.
As the US Government was involved in some of these transactions, this also brings up the topic of corruption among first-world countries. Very consistently, the governments of countries like the US and Russia took an active role in helping Yuri in exchange for bribes. This epitomizes the problem of corruption and bribery that goes on in the arms dealing world. Often times, these military leaders know that their weapons are being used for the purpose of killing innocent people in corrupt countries. Nonetheless, the personal greed of those men overshadowed the ethical considerations.
Consequences of Arms Dealing
The brutal reality of this dramatized film illuminates the real consequences that these dictator controlled countries have to deal with. In terms of accuracy, there are many private arms dealers that sell weapons to countries with evil rulers. From their perspective, it is reasonable to assume that in a profit driven world, dealers are going to sell weapons while fully knowing that it will be used for despicable purposes. Furthermore, as we see evidence on the news of violence and mass murders within countries like Liberia, we have to assume that these countries are getting the weapons from somewhere. To assume that private and government arms dealing does not occur would be an insult to common sense. Many countries in Africa and the Middle East do not even have the raw materials to produce it in the first place.
The major consequences of this are that as long as conflicts occur, there will be a need for arms. As there is a need for arms, private dealers and governments will continue to sell and recycle their arms for profit. Since human conflict is inevitable, the need for weapons will always exist. The long term effect of this is that it will continue to happen, despite regulations and attempts to control it. If people are going to go to great lengths to buy the weapons for high prices, then people and governments will take the risk to sell it.
The major stand that was taken was by Orlov when he was captured; he claimed that his job was a necessary evil in the world and that it will continue, with or without him. As the movie depicted, Orlov was in fact let go and not convicted from his crimes. This epitomizes the perspective that while it may be the right thing to combat arms dealing, it is not only a part of the economy and the way governments conduct business, but it is also something that would take place either way. I agree with this position to the extent that it will continue to happen, regardless of the forces against it.
On the other end, refusing to combat it at all would relinquish any hope that we will in a good world. By not fighting arms dealing, it would just condone the notion that we live in a destructive world and there is nothing we can do about it. This allows us to draw the conclusion that while terrible social problems such as corruption and genocide exist, they are a part of human nature. Despite strong efforts to stop innocent people being killed, it is a global problem that will not be solved in a short period of time. For it to happen, it would require the coordinated cooperation of all the governments around the world. This also allows us to draw the unfortunate conclusion that it may not be feasible to end arms dealing altogether.
My own reactions and feelings towards the movie are that it is unfortunate, albeit inevitable, that these things happen. As there is lots of money involved and the dealer is involved in only selling the weapons without participating in the consequences of using them, it is sadly an attractive profession for those willing to take the risk. Also, it is very unfortunate that the governments that run our own country take part in this in some levels. Since the weapons have to come from somewhere, we have to assume that our own government is partially involved in these dealings as well.
Interested in books turned into movies? Check out our movie review of The Kite Runner.
Moreover, my reaction was that I was very surprised to see how involved these governments were. Bribery and corruption seemed all too common throughout the movie. Finally, as Agent Hawke tried diligently to do the right thing, the whole system of arms dealing was built to downplay his own role in doing the right thing. I truly lamented in realizing that the agent worked hard to capture Orlov only to find out that his work was in vain.
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