The Time-lapse – Lord of War (2005)

Time-lapses are not only for youtube videos.

Writer/Director Andrew Niccol’s film Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage as arms dealer Yuri Orlov starts it’s narrative with the life cycle of a bullet. It takes the viewer on a journey showing the assembly of the cold metal, to packaging and shipment, until delivery and it’s tragic final use, killing a child soldier. However, this is a post for another day and not the only sequence abridging time.

Yuri’s booming business expands into the African markets. While on a delivery flight he is intercepted by interpol agent Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke), who wants nothing more than to the see war profiteer caught. Being grounded with a cargo full of illegal arms, Yuri is forced to get rid of the incriminating evidence. However, Valentine can hold him for 24 hours which leads us to today’s still.

The camera shows Yuri handcuffed in the foreground and in the background are the enormous Antonov An-12 plane and interpol jeeps leaving the scene. Having different sized objects placed at different depths has been discussed before from The Hurt Locker‘s cereal aisle to Lost‘s golfing in the mountainside shots. This framing is no different with that respect. The scene continues with the camera tracking towards the plane going past Cage’s character till he’s off frame. Now with only the Soviet Union plane fully framed a timelapse overlayed with beautiful and haunting music commences.

A time-lapse captures footage at varying rates and when played in normal time can give a fast forward or sped-up appearance. This shot’s time-lapse last for 24 seconds, starting from when the flute is heard till the morning clouds are formed, meaning one hour of “realtime” transpires in one second. During this period we see the local population gnaw on the plane for scraps until only unwanted bones remain. The camera tracks back showing Yuri right where we left him with the jeeps returning back to release him. A visual circle of life.

In regards to the melody that during this shot credit doesn’t go to the film’s Brazilian composer Antonio Pinto, but Indian composer A. R. Rahman. The instrumental entitled ‘Bombay Theme’ was made for Mani Ratnam’s film Bombay (1995). A. R. Rahman’s music has been used by many worldwide and Hollywood is no exception. My personal favorite being his song Chaiyya Chaiyya for its intended use in the film Dil Se (1997) and for the opening credits of Spike Lee’s Inside Man (2006). How Pinto or Niccol came across it remains a mystery, but the scene would feel incomplete without it.

During an interview with NPR Niccol reveals how his movie about arms dealing was furnished by arms dealers, including the Antonov plane for this shot. He says how “the plane that you see featured heavily in the movie belongs to one of the most notorious arms dealers in Africa, also Russian.” From his remarks on the DVD commentary I guess he achieved his goal of showing “a how to film on gunrunning. Part drama, part instructional video.”

Check out the full scene with A.R. Rahman’s beautiful music and see where Lord of War is available at justwatch.


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