Writer: Helena HonWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Children of Men", "Hotel Rwanda", "Legends of the Fall", "Syriana"
The title of the movie may be "Blood Diamond" but for its searing portrayal of the realities of the diamond trade, and the suffering of the people in South Africa in this trade and from Western exploitation of their natural resources, the film should have been called "Blood Diamonds". Because that's what they are - every single 'conflict diamond' that we sacrifice three month's salary to adorn our fingers with, has not come without the terrible price of spilt blood and human misery.
To this, I have to say that Edward Zwick, who last gave us the moving historical epic "The Last Samurai", is a director who deserves to be credited, not only for giving us an excellent film in "Blood Diamond" but also for having the guts to do stories that expose human greed and corruption, challenging us to take another look at the ethical and moral choices that we make in our lives. With the help of Charles Leavitt's script, a profound human story is told, detailing how our vanity and the biggest diamond merchants safe in their shiny offices elsewhere are ultimately the fuel for the strife and tragedy that exists in that tragic continent.
Africa is poverty stricken as it is, fraught with political wars, military coups and lawlessness. It is here that "Blood Diamond" begins, in post-apartheid Africa, in 1999 during the height of the civil war in Sierra Leone where thousands of innocent civilians are killed and a million more are driven out of their homes and villages into huge refugee camps.
Caught in this melee are the lives of two very different men - a soldier of fortune Danny Archer (Leornardo DiCaprio) and simple fisherman Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou).
Solomon is a devoted father and husband who is especially proud of his 12 year old son Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) whom he believes will one day become a doctor. But in the shifting sands of African life, all that is changed when trucks of armed rebels called the Revolutionary United Front (the RUF) storm his village, slaughtering women and children and taking Solomon away to work in the diamond mines. But as luck would have it, Solomon, while toiling knee deep in the muck of the watery mines, fishes out an egg-sized diamond. It is a rare pink stone which he recognises as the very thing that could help him reunite with his family. Under the watchful eye of the camp guards, he risks his life to bury it (anyone caught stealing a find is shot on sight) but not before being spotted by the camp overseer called Captain Poison (David Harewood). Thrown into jail along with Poison, Solomon is publicly accused of having the diamond.
This information travels to the keen ear of Archer, a Rhodesian diamond smuggler and ex-mercenary, who is also being incarcerated in the same jail for smuggling. He also quickly recognises the gem as the ticket to his own exit from Africa. Once out of jail, he convinces Solomon that the only way he can locate and save his family is to sell the diamond. These two very different Africans now face the formidable task of retrieving the buried diamond from the camp grounds of the RUF, negotiating around the corruption of the government's troops and getting around the bullets and bombs of the civil war.
It is into this toxic mix that we find Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly). An American war journalist who has had experience in Bosnia and Afghanistan, Maddy wants to do a story about "conflict stones" or "blood diamonds". She wants to use Archer to help her gather facts to expose the corporate malfeasance behind diamond trafficking while Archer wants to use her diplomatic immunity and connections to get around, paving the way for Solomon to retrieve his pink diamond. And thus in the unholy partnership of the three of them, the cycle of use begins.
Meanwhile, Poison who has also been released from jail, captures Dia because he knows Solomon will come back to get his son and therefore lead him to the hidden diamond. But at the camp, Poison brainwashes Dia into becoming a child soldier, a vicious killer who is taught that respect is commanded by the gun. The child is also injected with drugs and encouraged to smoke, drink and gamble along with the rest of the child recruits.
DiCaprio puts in a top grade performance here, convincing audiences and critics (for which he has been nominated for Best Performance in the Golden Globe) that he is no longer the youthful loverboy in "Titanic" but a grown man with thickened features and a lower voice. He speaks with a captivating Australian/English (perhaps Rhodesian?) accent and seems able to switch to Afrikaan-speckled English when speaking with Africans with ease. DiCaprio's seasoned acting ability aids in adding a third dimension to his character of a self-centred cynic who is able to rise above his own self interest. Hounsou, as the bereaved father matches DiCaprio's intensity scene by scene. As stoic Solomon in the face of adversity, his principles are never swayed, and this keeps the movie's moral sense firmly in place. Connelly on the other hand is sensual, openly flirting with DiCaprio to get what she wants.
Through "Blood Diamond", the director, the producers, and the writers have done well in letting us know that everytime a valuable natural resource is discovered in Africa - whether it's ivory, gold, or diamonds - the white man has hired surrogates to plunder the goods, and the Africans have suffered terribly. Like it was said in the film by war-dazed old man, "Let's hope they don't discover oil here."
Sierra Leone gems are smuggled into Liberia and sold to the Western market under the cloak of reputable firms. It's been estimated that 15% of the world's diamond market consists of conflict stones. While Sierra Lone is today at peace, the plight of the African people is not yet over as 200,000 child soldiers still remain.
In making "Blood Diamond", (clearly his best movie to date), Zwick's social message is loud and clear. He once said this in an Amnesty International publication: "Americans purchased nearly $38 billion worth of diamonds last year, accounting for more than half of global sales. I have nothing against diamonds (or rubies or emeralds or sapphires). I do object when their acquisition is complicit in the debasement of children or the destruction of a country. I find it unconscionable that the resources of the developing world are exploited for the sake of our vanity, and, above all, that billions of dollars of corporate profit are built on the backs of workers who are paid $1 a day."Cinema Online, 23 September 2008