by Andrew James
DiCaprio plays Danny, a thirty-something, ex-military official who now smuggles diamonds in and around Africa for sale into the legal market. As we soon realize, these diamonds are mined from the ground using slave labor (mostly of children) and are able to be bought and sold through mercenaries, thieves and generally bad dudes. Though Danny knows this kind of stuff goes on, he puts it to the back of his mind in order to stay alive and continue within his lucrative business. Meanwhile, entire villages are slain, while the women are raped and the men have their hands cut off by the evil rebels trying to usurp the already unstable government. One of these men, Solomon, barely escapes with his life and his hands intact but fears he has lost his family for good. Luckily, he has found and hidden away a huge diamond worth millions. This could be his ticket to freedom. It also could be his ticket to a death sentence if the wrong people find out about it.
Teaming up with Danny, who of course wants the diamond, they set off in search of the diamond and also for Solomon's family. Tagging along is American journalist Maddy Bowen (Connelly), who only wants to get this story out and in the open so the Americans will finally put an end to these atrocities.
Keeping in mind that this is mostly a true story taking place in the mid 90's, it evokes quite a bit of emotion during the viewing. You may be sickened or distressed to watch entire family's lives literally burnt to the ground and their children killed or taken away to be enslaved and brain washed. Me? I was just angry. It was hard to sit and watch all this happen and not be able to pick up a gun and do something about it. There are some pieces of dialogue that are designed solely to make you (Americans) feel bad about what is happening. These lines were effective, but also a bit preachy and in your face. I think the imagery speaks for itself and some of these lines were a bit too much for my tastes. Still, they were relevant and do evoke emotion and thought.
With all the killing that is going on, you may be surprised to learn that the movie isn't quite as bloody as you might think. Lots of people are killed and there are smatterings of blood here and there, but mostly it's kind of like an old western where you see people get shot and fall to the ground without a whole lot of blood spraying everywhere. Which I think is fine, because the sheer imagery of watching hundreds of people (men, women and children) fall in their tracks is enough of a statement without the blood.
The action seems to be almost never ending. We have a few brief interludes of quiet dialogue to keep things on the right path and make the story deeper, but it doesn't last long. Before we know it, we're caught in a crossfire of guerillas vs militia in an urban setting, or we're forced to stop at a rebel checkpoint knowing they're going to shoot our heroes; or maybe it's a foot race through the jungle or a precision military strike upon our position. I really felt like I was part of the action the whole way through and enjoyed the experience thoroughly.
The performances by DiCaprio and Hounsou are not quite Oscar worthy (UPDATE: both DiCaprio and Hounsou were Oscar nominated for their performances in this film - shows what I know), but they are heartfelt and emotional. Once you get past DiCaprio's somewhat questionable South African accent, all is well and we see him in his usual greatness. Meanwhile, Hounsou is very believable as a father who's lost and is now desperate enough to try anything to get back what he lost - including succumbing to revenge.
Though well over 2 1/2 hours, it didn't seem to matter as I was totally engrossed in the multiple story lines that director Zwick seems to have juggled very well to create a sensical, action packed thriller that although some might look at is as holier-than-thou, Hollywood tripe (as I did with Zwick's The Last Samurai - or as I like to call it, the remake of Dances with Wolves), I was able to escape this thinking and see the movie as a straight forward, "gotta beat the bad guys" type of movie that is riveting and ultimately politically thought-provoking.
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Blood Diamond