Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Lord of War

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, drug use, language and sexuality

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Action Crime Thriller
2 hr. 2 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 16, 2005 (wide)
Featuring: Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan, Ian Holm, Eamonn Walker
Director: Andrew Niccol
Producer: Philippe Rousselet, Andrew Niccol, Nicolas Cage
Distributor: Lions Gate Films
Copyright, Lions Gate Films
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Copyright, Lions Gate Films
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Relevant Issues
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War in the Bible

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

He sells guns… and he’s making a killing. / First rule of gunrunning: never get shot with your own merchandise.”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “A wily arms dealer dodges bullets and betrayal as he schemes his way to the top of his profession, only to come face to face with his conscience. But it’s not easy to leave a life of girls, guns and glamour when nobody wants you to stop, not even your enemies.”

After spending over two hours with the “Lord of War” it caused me to appreciate all of the wonderful things that have been given to us by the Lord of Life. These positive thoughts were not directly inspired by what I saw in the film, but surfaced as a reaction in order to counter the sadism and evil presented throughout the story. After being overloaded with such hostility, some kind of recovery was needed to bring hope back into my mind.

Ukrainian immigrant Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) moved with his family to “Little Odessa” in Brooklyn, New York when he was six years old. Growing up with no vision or direction, one day Yuri witnesses a gun shoot out in a restaurant and suddenly becomes interested in firearms. Yuri has now found his passion for life and he not only begins to sell guns, but also establishes himself as one of the premier suppliers of firearms in almost all of the war torn areas of the world. Yuri is shown to be human in many ways, but becomes more of a machine than any of the weapons he sells.

Probably every reason a movie is rated R is present in this film. There is a fair amount of foul language, including the f-word, as well as instances of violence and sex. Since the movie revolves around gun selling, it is correct to predict that they are used—and used on people. Some of these moments are very explicit and bloody. Also explicit are some of the sex scenes, as well as some scenes that involve nudity. Furthermore, there are a handful of scenes depicting characters using narcotics, particularly moments when characters are snorting cocaine.

One redeeming scene shows Yuri in a hotel room after he has just made a deal with African warlord Andre Baptiste Sr. (Eamonn Walker). In his room are two women who have been given to Yuri as a gift, and they are dancing very seductively. It’s obvious Yuri can have his way with them, but even though he is tempted, he refuses their offer. Yuri says he can’t, and we can infer it is because he has recently married his Dream Girl, Ava Fontaine (Bridget Moynahan). Unfortunately, while Yuri has this moment of fidelity, it is unfortunate to not see that this is something consistent with his character.

Speaking of Yuri’s character, the most challenging part to watching this film is that fact that you have to spend two hours with an unsympathetic character. Aside from the aforementioned scene where he avoids temptation, Yuri is not a likeable guy. He lies to win Ava. He loves guns and does not care how the guns he sells will be used. He also fails to realize how detrimental he is to his family. He justifies everything he does, but none of his reasoning really excuses his immoral behavior. There are good characters throughout the film, but they are predominantly sideline characters that only appear from time to time. We don’t spend nearly as much time with them like we do with the warlord Yuri.

Having an unsympathetic character isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. It can be good to be challenged through this kind of storytelling. However, there is something else about this film that does not sit right with me. While the movie boasts at the end that it is “based on real events” so much of the movie did not ring true. I felt seduced into thinking it was a good movie, when after evaluating the movie, it was really good production value more than anything else. Many common movie conventions are used, and a lot of scenes played out very predictably. For instance, watching Yuri recruit his brother Vitaly (Jared Leto) for “one more job” after Vitaly has gotten his act together was a huge indicator of the coming tragedy. And Yuri meeting Ava and how he wins her was just too far fetched to even enjoy.

It is hard to know exactly behind making a movie like this. It seems it could be highly charged with a political agenda, and for that reason has skewed the entertainment value. And it is fine to be challenged, but not in such a conventional way. For this reviewer, I cannot see much reason to spend time watching this one.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/nudity: Heavy

Viewer Comments


Positive—“The Lord of War” is an explicit, exciting and controversial film about a small arms dealer and both his internal struggle to justify his means as well as his conventional struggle to succeed and evade capture. While this movie is profane and explicit in its depiction of gun-running, it is so in order to acurately depict the life-style. There is extensive drug use, where Yuri and his brother snort cocaine lines, as well as a scene where Yuri snorts a mixture of gun powder and cocaine.

Some of the violence is extensive and at times gory, however it is in the interest of reality that the director shot the scenes how he did. For instance, if a man in a movie shoots at a person with a small hand gun, the viewer would not expect them to explode. If a movie is shot in a tangent reality, the message of the picture is skewed. Perhaps the greatest tribute to this factor is “Black Hawk Down”.

Conversely, however, if Yuri’s life is not portrayed as violent, neglectful, deceiptful, etc., his demise would become moot, and the reality of the picture lost. Do not ever view secular films with the preconception that they are based on Christian values, it will ruin any movie that you see.

While there are extensive intercourse scenes depicted in this movie, they are shot artistically, and do not reveal an extreme amount of nudity… The director took care in shooting the sex scenes in a way that is not explicit, but shows the nature of the business in the real world.

While it may seem unnecessary to inundate ourselves with this material, it is simultaneously wise to do so in order to attain a realistic view of the world that we live in. This movie is an excellent example of both true and romanticized reality, in that while some aspects are “Hollywood-ized,” there is a certain human emotion as well as emotional distance that Yuri deals with.

I would recommend this film because it deals with present issues on a global scale and how real people in the world deal with them. It addresses “black-bag” operations as well as how INTERPOL attempts to stop them. The movie does so with a realistic grasp of the occupation, and portrays the life of an arms dealer as it actually would be.
My Ratings: Offensive/4
—Sean, age 20
Positive—This film is very good.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 2½
—José Márcio de Rezende, age 38 years
Positive—Extremely offensive does not mean a bad message. This film does show offensive material such as violence, sex scenes, and harsh language, but it does not endorse any of these. If anthing, the movie shows the true horrors of the world that most people know nothing about. Yuri does not seem to make excuses for his actions as much as he is trying to convinve himself that what he is doing is okay. The message of this film is that many people, not just the real monsters, play a part in war from the people who produce the weapons to the people who sell them, to the people who buy them. Yuri is a bad person, but this movie does not endorse his actions.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 5
—Adam, age 19
Positive—…This movie does not purport to portray the main character as the apogee of human morality, rather it shows how a man can denigrate himself through temptation, greed, and unchecked aspiration. It shows what happens when a person throws away their moral compass in an attempt to achieve. Yuri is a bad man. His charming demeanor and hypnotizing self-explanations are similar to Satan in the Gospels. If evil and self-abandon were not attractive, there would be no human struggle. If the devil only appear with horns and a tail, where is the morality in being good? At no point in the film does Yuri demonstrate a redeeming quality (aside, perhaps, from the scene where he is horrified to see that his son has turned violence into a game with a toy pistol). His only reason for rejecting the Liberian prostitutes is self-preservation. Even as he sends his brother to rehab, he gives him “one last dose” of cocaine.

The film does not imply that Bush stole the election. That statement is made by the other great, and more recognizable, villain of the film—the Liberian dictator Andrew Baptiste. He makes that statement to justify his own power-grab. Note the parallel of this scene to that where Yuri explains his own job by comparing himself to a car salesman. Remember that Yuri himself eventually notes that he and Baptiste are mirror images of the same man!

At least Vitaly has a moral moment. He is tortured throughout the whole film by his own immorality and that of his brother. He tries, however misguidedly, to save himself at the end, and it is his own brother who puts the pin back in the grenade. He actively works against his own brother’s attempt to right the world!

Again, as a political polemic, remember that Yuri’s greatest time of triumph comes not under the Bush regime, but rather under the Clinton regime—the aftermath of the cold war. This movie is not for the faint of heart, but it is for the strong of mind. Is there a single moral message repugnant to the scriptures? I don’t see it.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Jake, age 24
Positive—“Lord of War” made me consider how our national leaders implicate their agenda, and the kinds of brutal dictators whom they support. Though I have been aware of it for sometime, the degree to which they use arms dealers never fully materialised in until I saw this film. Afterwards, I began doing research on the arms trade, and found that much of what the film portrays about arms dealers and their relationship to national governments is accurate. Though it remains nonpartisan, and the only outright political criticism is a two-sentence paragraph at the end aimed at all five permanent voting members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), I walked away with a clear idea of what the producers were trying to say, and question our tendancy to claim the moral high ground in this world.

It is NOT a family movie. There is a lot of profanity, graphic sexuality, and violence. In one particularily graphic scene, the President of Liberia assists Orlov in shooting a rival arms dealer with a .357 Magnum. But what haunted me most was Yuri Orlov’s completely unflinching absence of any moral values other than making money. At one point, he narrates, “Back then, I didn’t sell to Osama bin Laden. Not because of any moral reasons, but because he was always bouncing cheques.” In another scene, the President of Liberia shoots a soldier with a .357 Magnum that Yuri is intent on selling him, and Yuri’s response is to shout, “What are you doing?” Followed by, “Well, you have to buy it now—it’s used merchandise. I don’t sell used merchandise.” Even Yuri Orlov’s attempt to make money without selling arms is punctuated with a lack of any kind of moral conviction. He narrates, “Thank God there are still legal ways to exploit developping countries.” It is disconcerting to watch a character who has no morals and no principles other than selling weapons, but I believe that this was the goal—to unsettle the viewer about the unscrupulous practices of the arms trade. I found it to be a provocative, revealing and disturbingly accurate juxtaposition of the fictional government of André Baptiste (substitute for any one of numerous dictators, though I suppose they were referring to Charles Taylor) and those of the five permanent voting members of the UNSC via their mutual friends—the arms dealers.

On a Christian values platform, this film rates on the negative side of scale. In fact, it exemplifies everything that Christian morality isn’t. Lying, cheating, exploitation, infidelity, murder, drunkenness and drug use are all vividly portrayed, but there is no attempt made to glorify or even justify such actions; they are used more as tools to portray the moral vacuum that is the character of Yuri Orlov, who represents the arms trade in genreal.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
—Kyle, age 25


Neutral—I went to this film despite the reviews on this site, and they were correct. …I can’t endorse this film because of the graphic sex and violence, but if you are late teen or older, you will, I believe, get a glimpse of a world you won’t read about directly in the newspaper, yet one whose nature is as old as the Fall in the garden of Eden. Things are rarely as they seem on the surface. This is true in the fallen world but, praise God, also true in His Kingdom. The diffence is that God will not lie to us, but one does not have to live very long to know that Lucifer and the world certainly will.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3
—Bob C, age 42
Neutral—…I seldom care how many “f-bombs” are in a film, or how often the Lord’s name is used in vain. I take care not to do this in my own life, but I’ve not yet gotten to the point where I expect non-Christian fictional characters to act the way I do. Particularly in a film like this. All characters in this film are flawed, selfish people. They profit from the suffering of others, but rationalize it by claiming that they themselves are not the ones pulling the triggers. They lie, steal, manipulate, and yet, somehow, we expect them to have a clean mouth?

While I don’t think this movie is that particuarly good, I do recognize that it has something to say. And, while I do love this country, I think that this film, and others like it, give me a much-needed reminder that the United States is not perfect. The downside of a capitalist society is that, sometimes, the desire for wealth and material gain becomes the ultimate goal, and all else (including human life) becomes a lower priority. Do I think that this means we should go Communist? Of course not. It’s just a reminder that we, as Americans, need to always be sure to keep our priorities straight. While our system is partly based on the idea that everybody has the right to do what they’re good at, achieve their goals, and get rich, we have no right to do any of that at the expense of human life. Such is a message that I think most Christians would agree with, if they only listen to what a film has to say, instead of getting angry that it isn’t what they want it to be.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—Tyler Smith, age 24
Positive—First off, I want to comment that I own this film. It has the most moving introduction (opening credits) that have ever been projected onto a screen. It depicts the harsh reality of most third world countries, which Americans choose to ignore or brush off by sending money to aid them. As well as the moral value of this film is bold, showing the tragedy of neglects in one’s own family, as well as the effects of greed and lust. If you are offended by this film, then you are offended by reality (not to say that is good or bad). If you read this before seeing this film, a few tips: If you want a wakeup call, see it, if you want to brush off what happens in the world around you, then don’t. I recommend this film to everyone, because it’s moving, sad, and inspiring to act positively against such cruelties. I love Africa too much to brush it under the table.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Stephen, age 24
Positive—[comments from an Agnostic] …one of the bleakest films I have seen in years. The fact that the narrator has a well developed sense of humour cannot totally hide the fact that he is in a hell of his own creation. Where the movie gets interesting is in how it handles Nicholas Cage’s character, how it tries to have the audience relate to him. In some films such as the “Godfather”, criminals are made sympathetic to the audience through the script and wiles of the director, and you feel sorry for men who are really just killers. In “Lord Of War”, no effort is made to apologize for Cage’s lack of morals or integrity. He lies, cheats, kills and sleeps around while his wife stays home and raises his child. He is a despicable human being, and he is totally aware of it.

This honesty is what really attracted me to the film, and his last words of, “Never go to war, especially with yourself” really put the hook in me. However, the honesty of his character is not in any way meant to convey a sense of truth to his words. It is simply showing you a man who knows himself well enough to know that he does not have the courage to change.

From a spiritual/psychological perspective the movie offers a subtle challenge to its audience. The idea of a person being a social construction or a confluence of forces has become more prevalent in modern philosophy, but to me this seems to be making excuses. The main character is essentially trying to show the audience how he is simply designed and perfectly suited for one thing, and that to go against that is folly. It is an enticing but ultimately flawed view of human nature. That human beings have in them very elemental drives and passions is beyond doubt, regardless of whether you think those were put there by God or Evolution. But to simply say that you are a slave to your nature is defeatist and wrong, and I think the movie does a good, if subtle, job of getting that across. In the end the main character lost everything he cared about, and in the way he reacts shows that he really never cared for them that much anyways. This is not something to be admired.

Be you believer or non, no one can doubt the power of the human spirit to change itself. We have innate abilities and urges that may make us suited to perform a certain job, but we also have a unique sense of morality to help us understand if this job is one that should be undertaken, regardless of how well suited to it we are. If the main character had really wanted to change himself and remake his life to a more acceptable moral standard, there is no doubt that he could have. The only thing stopping him was himself, and it was precisely because he DID NOT go to war with himself that in the end he lost anyways.

As an Agnostic I am not sure what weight my words will be given, but I think that Christians should watch this movie, adults only of course, and witness why morality does have a place in the modern world. Be it from the Bible or from other sources, a moral code based on such truisms as the Golden Rule can help you avoid the deadly pitfalls that ensnare and ultimately ruin Nicholas Cage in “Lord Of War”.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Chris Anderson, age 26


Negative—I completely agree with the reviewer. I left the theater feeling awful! This is a horrible movie. The production and acting are great, but this is such an oily, dark (dare I say “evil”?) movie that the positives don’t help it one bit. It’s the kind of movie I probably would have loved as a non-believer, but as a christian, I just wanted to get out of the theater. Avoid it. See “An Unfinished Life” instead.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/5
—Todd Patrick, age 32
Negative—This movie has many layers that when pealed back leave a terrible smell. On the surface you have an “unfortunate man” named Yuri, who responds to his lack-luster life by taking the offensive with his great business mind and obtaining great material wealth. Some might call this a success but not to fast.

He never shows any positive moral values, even when he asks the two “sex toys” to leave his room; it was only because he didn’t have a condom, and he was in the AIDs Capitol of the world.

His business empowers evil people to do evil things. He never shows any remorse for his business. He compares his “evil” to that of car salesmen and the tobacco business. He said, “They kill many more people than I ever could.” This is not his most vile accusation the character makes.

The theme “lying” under the story-line is that our sitting President stole the election and is just as if not more corrupt than the worst of the blood-letting savage dictators and war-lords that dot the Earth like so many boils and pimples. The message gets stronger and louder as the movie nears the end that the United States along with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council are the reasons that arms are put in the hands of the poor around the world. I was expecting Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan to burst out at the end of the movie and tell us who to vote for in 2008. The battle cry, “Based on Actual Events” is a putrid tag-line that might make some people actually believe the venom that spews from this film.

I haven’t been to an R-rated movie in a long time. I felt a conviction after it was over. A conviciton that I needed to share with you that you should under no circumstances put any of your money into supporting films that are this degraded.

The high-tech displays and graphic are impressive; some scences are filled with action that might be enjoyable but not with this story. My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Charles, age 49
Negative—My fiance and I went to see this movie on opening day. The number of f-bombs dropped within the first 30 minutes of the movie is absolutely incredible. Also within this small segment, you see drug use, premarital sex/nudity (with God’s name used in vain during the scenes!) My fiance and I left the theatre. …
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/2½
—James, age 19

Comments from young people
Negative—While the movie making quality itself is not bad, there are a few things that need to be realized. From a Christian stand point this movie is not very good at all, there are countless and and an endless amount of F-bombs as well as a lot of nudity. As a matter of a fact, in one scene if you look closely as Nicholas cage’s character is showing one of his brother’s lady friends the door you see her shirt fall down slightly to the left and you catch a full on glimpse of her left breast. This really make me angry considering this movie was only rated 14A (in Canada). In the end of this movie, we really only get a sense that Nicholas Cage’s character has no heart and really only cares about his business. He trades his beautiful wife and innocent son for an Ak-47 and seems to feel little remorse.
My Ratings: Very Offensive/2½
—Mark McDonald, age 16
Positive—He doesn’t refuse to have sex with them because they are married, he doesn’t have sex with them because as he’s walking in the room he narrates “1 in 4 African’s have AIDS and there’s not a condom around in 100 miles.”
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Brendan Woodley, age 15
Movie Critics
…Is this a black comedy with grim moments or a personal tragedy with mordant underpinnings? We’re never sure, and Cage’s detached performance fails to make us care very much.
—USA Today, Mike Clark
…What a total misfire. An annoyingly smug Nicolas Cage plays an arms dealer with an amazingly nonchalant attitude toward his line of work…
—E! Online
…sobering and sometimes gruesome… foul language, violence and several occurrences of graphic sex make this film unacceptable…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review, Alan Boyer
…fast-moving, exceedingly well-crafted film… The darkly comic, pointedly cynical film can be as abruptly ferocious as “Reservoir Dogs”…
—Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Ed Blank
…For all its intelligence, the film gradually sinks under the weight of its own sense of mission…
—Newsday, Jan Stuart