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Blood Diamond (2006) Review

Blood Diamond (2006) Review 1
| Dec 8, 2006

Edward Zwick is an expert at dressing up high-minded social commentary as run-of-the-mill action pictures. Whether it’s the Gulf War (Courage Under Fire), terrorism (The Siege), the Civil War (Glory) or Native/pretty-boy relations (Legends of the Fall), Zwick never fails to entertain while he enlightens. With Blood Diamond, Zwick tackles the issue of conflict diamonds and how they’re used to fund the constant warring in Africa. The trouble with conflict diamonds is that they’re an underreported subject and the fact of the matter is that they do a great deal of harm world-wide, as diamonds are as easy to move as cash for people who don’t want their transactions traced.

Set in 1999 in the middle of Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war, we meet a fisherman named Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) who’s living a quiet, peaceful life with his wife, son and two daughters. Rebel forces soon arrive, forcing Solomon to send his family running while he’s taken prisoner and forced to mine diamonds. While sifting in the river, Solomon finds a large pink diamond, but when government forces attack the mine, he’s able to hide the diamond before being captured.

Also on the diamond trade is Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a former soldier turned soldier of fortune working for of one of the local military commanders (Arnold Vosloo), selling diamonds to a London-based jewelry exchange. Archer and Solomon meet in prison and Archer sees an opportunity. Also seeing an opportunity is American reporter Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), who wants to use Archer to help expose the corruption in the diamond trade. Archer, in turn, wants to use Solomon to find the pink diamond in exchange for helping him find his family.

I was surprised by how invested I became in this story; not that I went in thinking that conflict diamonds would make for uninteresting viewing, but that Zwick is sometimes hit and miss with these things. The Siege, for example, chronicled a New York under martial law after a series of suicide bombings as Muslims are rounded up and interned in Giants Stadium. It was set up well with significant attention paid in the beginning but it ended up descending into cliché as it rolled along towards its end. In Blood Diamond, Zwick keeps things moving along at a quick clip, although I think he stretched out the ending a little too long. The action scenes are ambitious whether Zwick’s parroting the urban chaos of Black Hawk Down or the carnal brutality of Apocalypse Now.

The true surprise in the film though has to be DiCaprio going hardcore as a head case diamond smuggler. Hounsou I can see as hard core, shoot, even Jennifer Connelly’s been more frightening than the handsome boy from that boat movie. But DiCaprio brings it; I’ve always known that he was a good actor but it takes a special kind of talent to be both charming and abrasive at the same time. The rest of the cast is great too of course, but our old friend Leo brings it all together really well because he even makes Archer’s growing conscience a believable development for someone set up as so cold-blooded.

Blood Diamond is well worth the investment of the nearly two-and-a-half hours of time it takes to watch it. It highlights a little known issue in a straight forward and interesting manner without dousing you in guilt. Kudos to Zwick for being able to make us care about another issue after a year of message movies telling us to care about 15 other things too.

Final Thoughts

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Blood Diamond (2006) Review
Director(s):
Edward Zwick
Actor(s):
Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly
Running Time:
143 min
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