‘Blood Diamond’ (2006) 550-ish Word DVD Review
May 31, 2009 § Leave a comment
Score: 4 out of 5
Sandwiched between director Edward Zwick’s The Last Samurai in 2003 and last year’s Defiance, Blood Diamond is a combination between a lightweight, political, “issues” film and fast-paced action-thriller.
Today’s issue of the day is (you guessed it) “Blood Diamonds” – diamonds which have been mined in a war-zone and are smuggled out of the country to eventually be sold off as “clean” diamonds in the Western world. Set in Sierra Leone, Africa, during the 1997–1998 civil war, the story focuses on Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a smuggler with some very large debts to pay, and Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a man who has lost his family during a recent Revolutionary United Front (RUF) raid on his village. During his time in a mining camp, Vandy buried a very large diamond, one which could clear Archer’s debts and get him out of “this God forsaken continent” once and for all. Archer persuades Vandy to show him where the diamond is hidden with the promise that, in return, he will help him find his family. Along the way they also meet up with a photo journalist named Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), who uses her press credentials to help them both get to where they’re going.
So, we have the victim, the nihilistic opportunist and the moralist, each representing their angle of the political argument. The issue of blood diamonds is mined (haha!) and refined to an easily comprehendible, relatively simple story of good guys, bad guys – the ultimate baddy being embodied by Michael Sheen, with sleazy relish, in the guise of Rupert Simmons, a corrupt deputy executive at South African diamond company Van De Kaap. Broad strokes here, people.
Surely, there is a film to be made which properly explores the complexities of the blood diamond trade within African history, but this isn’t it. But then, it was never supposed to be, either. Blood Diamond is a big budget, Hollywood, action-thriller. It was never the film’s aim to educate the audience over the complicated political shenanigans surrounding blood diamonds, and thank God, it doesn’t try to. No, Blood Diamond is a film made to entertain and not to pompously lecture us; sure, it wants to raise awareness around the issue, but it never forgets that, at its core, it’s a film with big explosions, guns and exhilarating chase sequences – and I see this as a good thing, too.
As a Hollywood blockbuster – as an action-thriller – the film manages to keep the excitement level up and the pace fast, despite it being just over two hours long (which, I suppose, is probably the average movie length nowadays, anyway). DiCaprio, Hounsou and Connelly prevent the characters, and their relationships with one another, from slipping into cliché. DiCaprio and Hounsou show great chemistry together on screen, and Connelly, even though she is awkwardly placed into that role as “The Love Interest”, manages to triumph over the label and develop into a fully three-dimensional character. Her character never outstays her welcome or becomes annoying, and at the time she does leave the film it feels right.
I recommend Blood Diamond. It makes perfect Saturday night viewing and isn’t totally devoid of intelligence. It boasts an interesting subject matter and setting, some great central performances and lots of stuff blowing up. Highly enjoyable.