Saturday, January 06, 2007

Movie Review: Blood Diamond

In parts of Africa today, the desperation to mine diamonds to fund arms results in civil war and the press-ganging of preteen children as soldiers resulting in rivers of blood being shed in the name of greed and exploitation. These diamonds are called "conflict diamonds". This is the premise around which Edward Zwick's captivating new film Blood Diamond is set. Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) is a farmer whose village is massacred by members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) resulting in his son being forced to become a child soldier, his wife and daughter incarcerated in a refugee camp, and Solomon slaving on a diamond field run by the RUF to fund arms deals for their cause. While Solomon is working he discovers a large pink diamond which he manages to hide. He ultimately ends up in a prison after the diamond field is attacked. Danny Archer (Leonardo de Caprio) is a ruthless ex-mercenary and diamond smuggler who, while in the same prison as Solomon, overhears a conversation that leads him to believe that Solomon has found a priceless diamond that could fund his escape from Africa and give him a new life. After arranging for himself and Solomon to be released from prison, Danny agrees to find Solomon's dispersed family for him if he will lead him to the hidden diamond and share it with him. So begins a series of horrendous events where amoral ruthlessness rules. All this is complicated by Danny's involvement with a syndicate of business men associated with a Colonel and his meeting an attractive, but equally determined, journalist (Jennifer Connelly) who helps Danny when he agrees to provide evidence of the smuggling racket he is involved in so she can write a story that truly matters. Blood Diamond is entirely predictable. But the performances of Di Caprio, Connelly, and especially Hounsou, raise this action thriller to a level that makes it definitely worth seeing. Conflict diamonds and the evil it wreaks on so many in Africa is a modern-day issue that we need to be reminded about. There are around 200,000 children in Africa today who are forced to commit atrocities that no adult should be required to perform, let alone a child. These conflict diamonds end up on the fingers of the Western world's women and we are reminded, at the end of the film, that it is in our power to refuse to buy conflict diamonds. Di Caprio is in fine form (apart from an uneven South African accent) and stays true to character throughout the entire movie. He ultimately makes a moral choice - but only because his actions have forced him to do so. The photography is excellent, showing the beauty and pain of Africa. The violence is very explicit and powerful. But, as others have noted, the real power of Blood Diamond comes when we are forced to look into the eyes of children who have lot everything including their innocence. It's a potent movie with an important theme that allows the story to drive home its message. My Rating: **** (out of 5) Positive Review 'Essentially a romantic adventure story with politics in the background--an old-fashioned movie, I suppose, but exciting and stunningly well made.' - David Denby/The New Yorker Negative Review 'Director Edward Zwick tried to make a great movie, but somewhere in the process he forgot to make a good one.' - Mick LaSalle/San Francisco Chronicle Content Advice Strong violence and language AUS: MA USA: R

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