Blood Diamond (2006)

Genre(s): Action / Drama
Warner Brothers || R - 138 minutes || December 8, 2006
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2006-12-03

.:: F I L M ::.

Director: Edward Zwick
Writer(s): Charles Leavitt (screenplay), Charles Leavitt and C. Gaby Mitchell (story)
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Sheen, Arnold Voslo

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Blood Diamond stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer, a diamond smuggler and someone who can manipulate most situations for this own benefit. The key word is most, however. After getting arrested for trying to smuggle diamonds in a flock of goats to Liberia, he comes across farmer Solomon Vandy (Hounsou) a man picked up while in force labor for the rebels, and one who discovered a huge diamond worth millions and wanted probably by the same amount. Knowing the value it has, he manages to bury it before coming into custody. Archer being the slimy bastard he is, seizes on this and offers Solomon the help to find his family, after the rebels came through their village, in exchange for this valuable commodity.

Meanwhile, journalist Maddy Bowen (Connelly) has come to this ďgod forsaken continentĒ (as Archer put it) to do a story, but not one that others have done. She meets Archer one night at a bar and both figure they can use each other, though sheís not as comfortable or eager. Archer, being deep inside the smuggling ring and how it works (as well as names and dates of some wealthy individuals), is an asset to her, and she is to him so he can use her journalistic credentials in an aid to find the diamond.

This is as far as Iíll go, but you get the basic storyline, but Zwick isnít really concerned with that element as much. I guess itís kind of like a summer blockbuster where the plot matters little when it comes to the explosions. Well, this movie was made for the message. Conflict diamonds are those stones that have been plucked using forced labor and those who defy the rebel army either have their arms chopped off or killed outright (although sometimes there need not be defiance at all, as it is fear they want/need).

Message films have been a staple in Hollywood for many years, be it Hotel Rwanda or last yearís The Constant Gardener (for which star Rachel Weisz took home the Oscar). I bring those two in particular because after seeing Blood Diamond, I had the same feeling toward that as I did with Rwanda and Constant. Both films bring to light issues we either donít know about or ignore. The difference this time, however, is instead of finessing the message; director Edward Zwick bangs you over the head with it. If thereís one thing that annoys me it is the text at the end telling you, in essence, what you spent more than two hours watching.

Criticisms aside, and focusing solely on the movie at hand, Blood Diamond didnít reach the dramatic proportions of Hotel Rwanda for me, but it does feature some great performances. Djimon Hounsou once again proves that heís not just another Cuba Gooding Jr. giving one great (or memorable) performance -- in Gladiator, a film I have come to appreciate more over the years. As a man just trying to get his family back, Hounsou never goes over the top and yet, you see the rage and muscle of a father fighting for those he loves, is quite powerful.

Leonardo DiCaprio is the newest actor putting on a foreign accent thatís reviled in message boards, but being someone who is not familiar with the dialect of South Africa, I find it hard to really criticize it. At first, the accent was distracting, so much that I think it affected my perception of the pacing within the first act, but just as he did earlier this year with The Departed, he gets lost in the role. Thereís where you realize how much he has grown. It has been 10 years since Titanic and while I was never one that hated his performance, he definitely has proven is worth.

Another young actress whom Iíve had no doubt is a great actress ever since her performances in Dark City and Requiem for a Dream. In Blood Diamond, sheís certain good, though nothing exactly fantastic. She fills the role fine and stands her own against DiCaprio providing the most moral base between the two, but she isnít in it enough to really be effective.

Visually speaking, director Edward Zwick once again hits it out of the park with sprawling views of mountains and hills, and not done not just for the sake of beautiful scenery, but having these characters interact with it. Just as he did with Legends of the Fall or The Last Samurai before, he knows how to tell a story while still providing beauty.

In any case, Blood Diamond in itself, without the players, is an incredibly brutal film, to the point of becoming numbing really. The issue goes beyond just diamonds, but having myself read articles on the subject before, it is a huge problem and one that gets ignored because the majority cannot afford diamonds and the few who control the market, want to keep it this way. Sometimes Hollywood overindulges conspiracies, but with this, I believe it all the way.

Blood Diamond does work for those reasons, and intertwined with the heart-wrenching story of a father trying to find his family, together it makes a worthy film. Like Hotel Rwanda before it, this isnít a film you should enter lightly. It might not be shocking currently with news from Iraq or films like Hostel and the Saw franchise, but it is still serious none-the-less. I only bring this up because Warner has chosen to make this film look like some big action-drama, and although there is action in it, itís not like Die Hard.