Lord of War (4K Blu-ray)
Oscar winner Nicholas Cage is the LORD OF WAR - check out our review of the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack.
This review covers the 4K Combo Pack, which includes a Blu-ray and Digital HD code.
Screenshots used in this review are from the HD transfer, not the 4K transfer, and do not reflect the quality of the 4K image.
An enterprising arms dealer (Nicholas Cage) finds himself torn between his business and his family, all while a relentless Interpol agent (Ethan Hawke) pursues him. Also stars Jared Leto and Bridget Moynahan. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol.
Andrew Niccol, who was nominated for an Oscar for writing The Truman Show, brings a unique vision to this semi-factual tale about the international gun trade. Through an otherworldly prism, he wraps a morality tale with political and social satire. It is a bit heavy-handed at times, but the film makes its point, albeit bluntly.
The film benefits from being stocked with Oscar-nominated talent, and the performances in particular by Nicholas Cage and Jared Leto are excellent. Cage, playing arms dealer Yuri Orlov, gives a nicely understated performance, and he portrays his character’s descent into darkness well. The only knock I can give it comes in his deadpan delivery of the film’s narration. Cage’s character pontificates a bit too much, and his near-proselytizing was unnecessary to get the point across. We don’t need Cage reinforcing what the story and striking visuals were making perfectly clear.
Surprisingly, it is Jared Leto, who plays Yuri’s brother Vitaly, who ends up chewing up the scenery. As a drug-addict who begins to grasp the human implications of the arms deals he and Yuri undertake, Vitaly provides the moral compass Yuri does not. Leto and Cage have excellent chemistry, and the destruction of their relationship underscores the themes Niccol is trying to convey.
Ethan Hawke, Bridget Moynahan, Ian Holm and Eamonn Walker are all very good in supporting roles, grounding the film in a semblance of reality, even as Niccol takes the plot into the realm of the surreal in the third act.
The film is loosely based in fact, combining the real-life stories of several international arms dealers to create the composite of Yuri Orlov. As such, it is more of an exploration of the cost of the arms trade on the innocents caught in its wake than it is a reflection of true events. With the impact of guns even more of a social issue these days, Lord of War feels almost more relevant now than it did in 2005.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Lionsgate, to their credit, is one of the few studios committing to a steady release of their catalog titles in 4K. While some of the titles, including Lord of War, may not be among the most-requested films among 4K enthusiasts, Lionsgate nevertheless is putting out solid discs.
While the 4K combo set may lack in some special features, it gets the most important thing right: providing the best possible video and audio presentation for the format. That includes the use of Dolby Vision in mastering the transfer, so each scene has shifting video settings, to present the image the way the director intended.
For Lord of War, there is a definite upgrade in video quality from the Blu-ray, although film grain is still very evident in the transfer. This is likely a style choice by director Niccol, as it gives the film a gritty, aged look. Considering most of the film takes place in the 1980s and 1990s, the use of grain is an effective tool, although some may find it distracting. Indeed, in some scenes, the grain is more prevalent than in others, especially in scenes involving smoke.
The noticeable grain is not indicative of the overall quality of the transfer, as the detail and colors are outstanding. In fact, the image is far better than the Blu-ray enclosed in the set, which is merely a repackaging of the previous HD release. If you truly want to appreciate the improvement in fine detail in the 4K transfer, give the Blu-ray a spin and compare. The HD version, using dated encoding, gives the image a muddled and unfocused look in comparison to the 4K disc.
The inclusion of Dolby Vision on the 4K disc is highlighted by the level of detail throughout the film, but especially in dark settings, where blacks are inky but the sharpness is true.
The audio on the 4K disc is a Dolby Atmos track, an excellent upgrade from the DTS and Dolby Digital EX tracks on the Blu-ray. While you might think a film filled with automatic weapons, tanks, and helicopters would be an auditory extravaganza, this is not that kind of film. There are only two real explosions in the film, and the gunfire is purposely mixed not to overwhelm the scene. Instead, the dialogue is given the proper prominence. The Dolby Atmos track shows nice nuance, with excellent channel separation.
The bonus features are a bit of an afterthought, using older extras produced in 2005. The video quality is listed as 1080p, but it appears to be converted up from DVD-level standard definition.
The bonus features on the 4K include:
“The Making of Lord of War” featurette. Writer/director Andrew Niccol, as well as Nicolas Cage and members of the cast and crew, discuss the making of the film. The logistics of covering the international arms trade are shown, as well as the challenges of using South Africa as a stand-in for a number of countries. It’s a pretty interesting look at how Hollywood brought a gritty realism to location shooting. Running Time: 20:28.
“Making a Killing: Inside The International Arms Trade” featurette. This mini-documentary, which is not about the film at all, features a number of international security experts discussing the impact of the arms trade on third world countries. Running time: 15:14.
Deleted Scenes. Seven deleted scenes are included. They aren’t listed by content, but rather by number.
Audio Commentary. Writer/director Andrew Niccol provides the commentary, and he provides a running account of the logistics of creating the film. He’s a bit droll, so don’t expect a lively discussion about his experiences on the set.
Release Date: March 19, 2019
Rating: R (violence, language, drug use, sexuality)
Running Time: 121 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40
Audio: 4K: Dolby Atmos. Blu-ray: DTS 6.1 ES, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Audio Commentary: With director Andrew Niccol