Directed by: Edward Zwick
Premise: Amid the 1999 civil war in Sierra Leone, a South African smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio), a native fisherman (Djimon Hounsou), and an American journalist (Jennifer Connelly) search for a rare pink diamond that will allow them to depart the country to safety.
What Works: Blood Diamond is a great thriller. The film delivers as a piece of action-adventure entertainment with chase scenes and shoot outs that do justice to anything in the Rambo franchise, but the film is able to reach further than its genre usually allows by creating characters with real lives. One of the most interesting techniques in the storytelling and character development is the disparity between the character’s actions and their views of themselves and the world. DiCaprio’s role as Danny Archer, a cynic who cares for no one but himself, is put in the position of aiding and defending others while Connelly’s role as Maddey Bowen, an idealistic journalist determined to make a difference, ends up using others in her attempts to get a scoop. The standout performance of the film is Hounsou as Solomon, a fisherman whose family has been scattered across the land, with his wife and daughter in a refugee camp and his son captured and brainwashed by the revolution. This is where Blood Diamond enters the realm of the political thriller, and it addresses contemporary and recent history in ways that integrate exposition into the narrative without bogging it down. The film is very bold in dealing with the civil war in Sierra Leone by not turning away from the violence and by depicting the enslavement, training, and brutally of the child soldiers used by the revolution. The film goes even further, linking the war, and the enslaved children, to the global—and particularly to the American—market for diamonds. The film is able to do this without stopping for a lecture, but does it inside of the narrative and makes this information vital to the story.
What Doesn’t: Some of the Blood Diamond’s story turns are predictable, mainly in the character of Danny Archer, who fits the cliché of the mercenary with a heart of gold almost perfectly, although the writing and DiCapirio’s performance do give the character life beyond the conventions.
Bottom Line: Blood Diamond is a great action thriller that is able to be entertaining and socially conscious. The film’s political undertones and relevance are very strong and much of the picture is on par with Munich, Hotel Rwanda, and The Constant Gardener.
Episode: #122 (December 17, 2006)