Movie Review #873
“BLOOD DIAMOND” SUFFERS FROM A SLOW FIRST HOUR, BUT MAKES UP FOR IT WITH GALVANIZING PERFORMANCES AND SHOCKING INSIGHTS INTO ITS HORRID WORLD.
By Red Stewart
|Released December 8, 2006 (nationwide)|
|Adventure, Drama, Thriller|
|Rated R (contains graphic violence, strong language)|
There are a lot of atrocities that go on in our world, but I’ve always felt like blood diamonds (or conflict diamonds) are the most understated. Innocent civilians are forced to mine for gems by sick warlords to sell and fund their battles with insurgents. It wasn’t until 2003 that a flawed certification known as the Kimberley Process was established to prevent mainstream consumers from purchasing (and unintentionally supporting) these illegal commodities.
“Blood Diamond” may tell a fictional account about the lead-up to the Kimberley Process, but many of the story elements seen in the film are tragically happening to this day. After getting separated from his son, a Mende fisherman named Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) is drafted into a mining workforce where he discovers and hides a large pink diamond. Though Vandy and the other miners are soon incarcerated by the government, he is freed by a Rhodesian mercenary named Danny Archer (DiCaprio), who agrees to help Vandy find his son in exchange for the diamond.
Like most Edward Zwick films, the scope of “Blood Diamond” is large and bears a long exposition as a result. While the backstory could’ve been said in 20 to 30 minutes, it takes a good hour to fully play out. But once the film gets past this small trifle it really kicks into gear, with Vandy and Archer exploring the Sierra Leone landscape and witnessing the aforementioned horrors associated with conflict diamonds, including: child soldiers, tortured civilians, and psychopathic businessmen. This in turn ties in with a subplot where Archer undergoes a morality change after realizing that he’s been playing a strong part in all this.
Unfortunately, Zwick ends up trying to tell a tale that’s inherently not as big as it aims to be. Cue the inclusion of Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), a journalist trying to bring down the blood diamond operation. And of course there’s a romantic connection between her and Archer that’s suppressed by Archer’s current career-choice.
“Blood Diamond” is certainly a film that’s going to be subjective among wider audiences. It excels greatly in depicting the war-torn atmosphere surrounding this illegal enterprise, with Eduardo Serra’s beautiful cinematography conveying the dreariness of it all perfectly. However, it has a slow beginning, falters when it comes to delivering its political commentary, and seems too willing to give in to action tropes.
What tips the scales towards recommending “Blood Diamond”, for me, are the emotionally-heavy performances given by DiCaprio, Hounsou, and Connelly.