Uncaged - Lord of War (2005) & The Weather Man (2005)
This year, I am going to try to get through the whole oeuvre of Nicolas Cage because my fascination with this man and his contradictions is endless. God help me.
Lord of War (2005)
The problem of the illegal arms trafficking persists even today, and it is tricky to take a subject this serious lightly. Lord of War attempts to make a satire about the whole trade and how everyone, including the very countries that condemn it, is complicit. There are a lot of flashy, visual tricks such as the beginning when we follow the manufacturing of a single bullet and see how it exchanges so many different hands and ends up killing a young African child. I found the visual flair distracting at best, possibly even cynical and disingenuous. The movie also makes the mistake of making Orlov’s (Cage) life glamorous, and it is only later in the film when he is forced to confront the consequences of his actions. Cage was the best part of this film. I especially liked how he kept justifying his actions to himself (“someone’s got to do it, I can’t stop war, etc.) and how most of the arc of the film is his realization of his own bullshit. But Andrew Niccol has too heavy a hand and doesn’t trust Cage and the other actors enough to tell the story through their performances. He’s too insistent on proving what a stylish director he is. Niccol is certainly a talented storyteller and screenwriter. His credits include Gattaca, The Truman Show, and In Time (which is bad, but kind of enjoyably so). But I just found this film to be too unfocused and long passages felt kind of dead. The movie was best in the aforementioned scenes of Cage trying so desperately to see himself as the good guy.
The Weather Man (2005)
Nicolas Cage is very good at tapping into the melancholy of his characters and embodying that melancholy in his physicality. The way that his David Spritz carries himself and the earnestness that underlies everything that he does is quite skillful and does a lot to get us to sympathize with his frankly unsympathetic character. The problems that he faces - a meaningless, if well-paying job, his lack of connection with his children and wife, living in the shadow of his highly respected father - are all problems of privilege, and it was hard for me to personally sympathize with him, but I think the film recognizes that he doesn’t really have anything truly serious to complain about. Instead, the film is more concerned with his small journeys in his process to become a better person overall and how (sometimes) hilariously they fail. As a result, the film is a bit of a shambling mess since it is essentially separated into vignettes, but Cage is a strong enough actor that it makes this movie watchable, if not entirely compelling.