There are a couple of ways to look at Blood Diamond. The first would be what the media and the diamond industry have led you to believe, that it is a message movie filled with important information (or mis-information depending on what side you fall on) on how the diamond trade in Africa is corrupt and continues the plight of the African people. The diamond trade is still a burden on Africa, and the film does deal with the subject, but not in a way that is going to change the world, although it may encourage one or two people to research where their next $5,000 rock came from.
Instead, I choose to look at this film as the action adventure film that it is, with a bit of eye-opening factoids interspersed inside of it. No matter what you read there is truth in Blood Diamond. Do a simple Internet search and you will see young African kids without hands because they have been cut off by rebels. This is in the movie along with so many other atrocities you would think the world was coming to an end if you saw this in your neighborhood.
Instead of a delivering a message about the diamond trade this is a film more about the needs, wants and greed of mankind. Djimon Hounsou plays Solomon Vandy, a fisherman who has just lost his son to the rebels and his wife and two other children have been sent to a refugee camp. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Danny Archer, a smuggler trading diamonds for arms. He is feeding the problem, he is not a nice guy. Finally there is Jennifer Connelly who plays Maddy, an American journalist looking for a story to take home and open the world’s eyes to what is going on in Africa.
Chance brings these three together as Solomon wants his son back, Archer needs a diamond Solomon hid which could serve as his ticket out of Africa and Maddy just wants her story and Archer can give it to her. The film follows their journey through war torn Africa, the jungle and the rivers.
While I truly enjoyed this movie it is far from perfect. Director Edward Zwick is a brilliant visual director, much like The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond looks extraordinary. Colors pop off the screen and you are immersed in the environment, be it good or bad. However, his storytelling technique is rather formulaic and you can see the next scene before it happens; there aren’t any twists, turns or surprising moments. What makes this an afterthought are primarily the performances by DiCaprio and Hounsou, particularly Hounsou.
DiCaprio plays a South African and has an accent that is partially believable, what helps it is the fact that he maintains it throughout and doesn’t waiver. His performance seems genuine, unfortunately he is not a nice guy and even though there are moments where you are expected to feel for him you always remember that he is trying to steal Solomon’s precious diamond. As for Solomon, Hounsou is fantastic, he continues to impress on every level. This guy can act and an Oscar nomination for his performance is a virtual guarantee. The least impressive performance is turned in by Connelly, who delivers a speech about midway through the film that seems like the lines where written on Leo’s face. Come on Jen, you are better than this. Oh, and were you wearing a bra? Because those puppies seemed a button away from seeing the light. It also doesn’t help your credibility as a serious journalist. Sorry.
Despite its flaws I choose to focus on its entertainment value which is to say I really enjoyed Blood Diamond as an action adventure film, but if I was to start drilling down and try to turn this into a powerful message movie my feeling would probably change. There is something to be said about the state of Africa, something needs to be done, but Blood Diamond is not the messenger bringing the news to the people, it is more of a footnote on a much larger document. See this movie for the actioner it is, and for more information on what is really going on in Africa consult your friendly neighborhood search engine.