Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly
Directed by Edward Zwick
Blood Diamond is an incredibly intense film. Set in 1999 in the civil-war torn Sierra Leone, a country nestled into the curve of Africa’s west coast, it tells the story of a cocky diamond smuggler, greedy business men and an innocent fisherman; essentially, but it’s not that simple. This movie is epic, enduring, and captivating, with a lot to say.
DiCaprio plays Danny Archer, a native African who spent years training with the South African Army prior to apartheid. Using skills gained, he turns to the diamond industry for his wealth. He is cocky and streetwise, arrogant and absolutely ruthless.
Hounsou’s Solomon Vandy is Archer’s polar opposite, a fisherman with a family, leading a simple life. When rebels take over his village, he hides his family and rushes to save his son. Instead, he finds himself captured and put to work near the diamond mines. After seeing what they do to a man who tries to keep a diamond for himself, you’d think he wouldn’t try to do the same, but this is like no other diamond.
Weighing a proposed 100 carats and a clear pink, the gem is worth millions. Once Archer overhears word that Vandy might possess it, the two become the unlikely companions and venture to find Vandy’s family and the eponymous blood diamond. While Archer is eager to cash in and leave the continent, Vandy wants only his family’s safe return.
The action is fast-paced and the storyline is compelling. It’s strange to see a car chase in the middle of the African bush, but this movie is unexpected.
Though a bit long-winded, there’s a lot going on here and the film has much to resolve. A story so foreign and extreme could be difficult to understand, but Charles Leavitt’s screenplay is fluid and easily understood, despite the occasional lapses into weak dialogue.
But it’s not about what’s being said as much as the images we see, hostile exploitation of the African people for goods desired in the rest of the world. Once oil, rubber and ivory, now diamonds, are in demand and there are plenty of people willing to kill or be killed for them. The most disturbing images come from the rebel camps, all the young boys being trained to be executioners.
The performances are flawless, including Connelly as journalist Maddy Bowen who helps the pair along on their journey, hoping for the ultimate story. Complemented by a terrific score infused with tribal beats, Blood Diamond is something new and different, fascinating. Though a harrowing tale, it’s one worth watching, to see how the other side of the world has struggled.
Next time you see a sparkling diamond, you might think a little more about its origins.