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Movie Review: Blood Diamond

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Edward Zwick returns with a film that is short of a sequel for his embarrassing The Last Samurai. Both are set in exotic lands (oh adventure!) with two Hollywood big names playing mercenaries who are in the end redeemed by honor and the power of love, which is just ridiculous. Blood Diamond at least gives Leonardo DiCaprio an opportunity to play his meanest character ever — earning his second Oscar nomination for best actor — but which makes the aforementioned redemption even harder to swallow.

DiCaprio's mercenary, Danny Archer, is a diamond smuggler, and he comes across Solomon, a miner (Djimon Hounsou) who has found a rare blood diamond the size of an egg, but who needs help finding his family. To the rescue comes Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), an American journalist who obviously kindles a relationship with Archer, softening the guy's heart.

The plot is simplistic and almost non-existent, which wouldn't be a problem in an adventure film like Romancing the Stone (with which it shares the same basic premises). However, instead of any sense of adventure, humor, and fun, what we get is the political backdrop of commercial exploitation, war, and the poor living and working conditions in Africa caused partly by the illegal commerce of diamonds. Blood Diamond does not know if it wants to be a political thriller or an old-fashioned adventure, and it fails at both.

The political aspect is ludicrous for its absolute lack of consistency. Take Jennifer Connelly's character, who condemns American girls who buy diamonds for a magazine wedding and have no idea of the suffering it may have caused to an African. Later she stops to take pictures of homeless Africans — which Zwick decides to put on screen in black and white frames as she takes them, making us complicitous in this act of romanticizing Africa once again.

As in Fernando Meirelles' The Constant Gardener, there is still a great infatuation in making it too exotic, and that shows also in other areas. The action scenes are almost all completely unnecessary and boring. It is no wonder the only interesting character in the whole movie is Archer. We couldn't care less for Solomon, because he is not given any emotional depth, verbal skills, or characterization (Hounsou has been reprising his role from 1997's Amistad ever since, and there is even a scene in a courtroom that brings back frightful associations). The bad guys, part of a militia that recruits children, are shown to be really bad by giving children machine guns and cigarettes, but also by listening to hip-hop and wearing Snoop Dogg t-shirts.

The movie ends with titles that say something like "ensure that any diamonds you buy are conflict-free diamonds." I may be wrong, but the demographics of moviegoers don't really overlap with that of diamond buyers, and even if it did, a) do you really think they would pay more for a "conflict-free certified stone" or b) sellers would tell the truth — even if they knew it themselves? It's all part of the naïveté of the movie: that all you have to do to help is to ensure the provenance of your diamonds, and even bad guys
like Archer can save an African.

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About Joe Sdicht

  • An excellent achievement. Conflict diamonds are not a vehicle for an action film, the seriousness of the situation would make any attempt ignorant and repulsive. In Blood Diamond, The subject is delicately handled and the storyline never feels like it’s overly exploiting the situation. I felt sick with myself that I had gone to the cinema to view this as entertainment, and by the end assured myself that I hadn’t enjoyed the film. Instead I let it make visual what I knew about African diamonds and prompt me to think more about our society. I was moved, and I’m very glad I saw it. The film making here is top notch and can nearly make me forgive Hollywood’s real motives for exploiting another plight of the dark continent. I thought the acting was also solid all round, and this ought to see Djimon Hounsou move from a face to a name. Please see this film.

  • even bad guys like Archer can give their lives to save an African.

    Er, did you just give away the ending? No offense, but I now wish I hadn’t read your review.

  • cK

    a movie doesnt hav to b either a political thriller or an adventure movie. but what came as a real let down was the last paragraph mentioning those two points. a) yes there are people who will pay more for conflict-free diamond b)as for those who sell, more such questions being asked will make them consider these issues. and i dont think anything else has succeded so much in spreading public awareness on this particular issue

  • James Grebmops

    I guess there is no problem in raising public awareness of such an issue, it’s just that I feel it is hardly relevant to the majority of the intended audience of this movie. The film is a shameless action vehicle that sometimes tries to pose as a serious political thing, public awareness, conflict-free diamonds, Africa is being exploited. There are dozens of other ways one could positively help with a more socially aware movie, instead of one that is so manicheistic. It’s racy in parts and the overall message, voiced through DiCaprio’s character, is not really convincing.

  • AC

    Blood diamond was an ingenious movie, very much unlike your arguments which were inexistent.