To avoid spoilers, keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times
Blood Diamond is a film that has been a hot topic in the newspapers over the past few weeks. With a chilling message, big budget and good reviews backing the film (New Yorker, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune among many others), it seems to be Academy Award material. Though, it is not without a bit controversy, according to a press release by the New York Post, Warner Bros. withheld the extra’s prosthetic limbs, which was part of their payment, to coincide with the release of the film. The studio denies the report.
The movie opens with a montage describing the problem of conflict “blood” diamonds. The situation in Sierra Leone is also described during this montage and sets a bleak tone for the film.
The film really begins when Leonardo Dicaprio, who plays gun-runner/diamond smuggler Danny Archer, and Djimon Hounsou, who plays Solomon Vandy, meet in a detention center in Sierra Leone. Danny has been caught smuggling diamonds out of the war torn country. Solomon’s village was burned to the ground, his family separated and he was forced to mine diamonds for the R.U.F (Revolutionary United Front). When the labour camp is raided by the government, all the workers get thrown in jail as rebel sympathizers.
During his time in the fields, Solomon found a diamond the size of a raccoon’s brain (approximate size of raccoon’s brain 30 grams, which equals 150 carats). This piques Danny’s interest and fuels his ambitions to leave the West African coast forever. Danny offers to use his smuggling contacts to reunite Solomon’s family in exchange for the diamond. Solomon only cares about his family, so he accepts the deal.
The acting is first class all around in this film. Dicaprio, though is accent has annoyed many critics, Hounsou, and Jennifer Connelly all make their characters complex, interesting and human. After the performance Hounsou gave is this film, he should be promoted to the “A” class of stars. His deeply emotional character is a perfect counterbalance to Dicaprio’s cold and calculating smuggler. Connelly is there as Leo’s love interest and as fifth business to the story. Arnold Vosloo(the mummy from The Mummy) is another familiar face in the film, he plays a corrupt army colonel, who smuggles on the side.
Throughout, the director, Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, The Siege), takes great pains to describe how this illegal trade is very hard or impossible to distinguish from the legitimate business, how large jewelers purchase vast amounts of diamonds to store in vaults in order to keep supply down and price way up and how the consumer could already have blood diamonds in their jewelry cases. He also highlights the atrocities that are occurring in West Africa, child soldiers, forced labour and mass murders, which continue to this day (the film is set in the 90s).
The movie isn’t without faults: Leo’s accent is hard to listen to and it bends and cracks when he barks orders or yells. He also has a penchant for saying “yeah, huh” at the end of every sentence. Connelly could have used more screen time to develop her character. The film is pretty fat at almost two and a half hours. The pace was rather good but there were many side stories that sucked up a lot of time. By the end of the film, the anti-smuggling sentiment is utterly palpable by the audience and a final text splash page montage appears pointing the finger at the viewers stating that consumers should demand conflict-free diamonds.
The film rates a 7/10 or a 3 out of 5 stars for the great acting, excellent main story and overall enjoyment. Though Hounsou is a veteran actor, this may become his “breakout” performance. It lost some marks for the excessive use of text splash pages, lack of Jennifer Connelly and the unnecessary side plots. I enjoyed the film, the message was strong but brought up some extra questions and all the stories gets wrapped up.