Release Date: December 8, 2006
It takes balls to make a film such as this. Scratch that, it takes some serious bravado to make a film about Africa that is as unabashed as Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond. Difficult to watch, daring and unrelenting, Zwick’s film is a winner through and through.
The film takes place in the late 1990’s during the height of the conflict diamond trade. Sierra Lione is a country torn by civil war and genocide all due to the world’s need to have the luxuries of life at the slimmest price. Djimon Hounsou plays Solomon Vandy, a simple fisherman whose village is ransacked by rebels who separate him from his family and force him to work in the mine fields. There he finds a precious diamond, and just before the rebel diamond field is taken by the government, Vandy buries the diamond for later. While he is in prison as a result of the government’s raid, he meets Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a diamond smuggler who insists that he can help Vandy sell the diamond and find his family.
The two set off through the war ravaged countryside, dodging both government and rebel forces as well as a nosey New York reporter (Jennifer Connelly) who takes a bit of a liking to Archer. The action is fast paced and often difficult to watch. Director Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai), does nothing to hide the audience from the true form of the violence in Africa, not shying away for a moment from showing kids with AK-47s shooting up towns of women and children. At first the scenes involving young boys thrown into the militia life may seem like overkill or even a bit of exploitation, but Zwick only shows how the violence really happens, and it may make the average American a bit sick to their stomach.
But aside from being difficult to watch, Blood Diamond truly shines in the performances of its leading men. Leo DiCaprio, who has been passed up in Oscars past, delivers a performance that should gain him the recognition that he has always deserved. He gives Archer enough charisma and edge to make him interesting, yet still keeps him human enough for audiences to care about him, even when we think he is going to end up being the bad guy. He also very impressively carries a South African accent throughout the entire film.
But DiCaprio’s performance, while great, isn’t the standout that ultimately makes this film great. Djimon Hounsou seems to take over the film at some point and deliver one of the most emotional and powerful performances of the year. DiCaprio was good, but Hounsou was great. Hands down.
But enough about the performances in this film, as there is much to be said about the job that Director Ed Zwick has done. Not only did he give the film plenty of edge, but he keeps the pace high and the plot believable. Only the love story between DiCaprio and Connelly seems a bit forced, but it is a moot point in the grand scheme of things.
In the end, Blood Diamond is bound to make you think. It is a hard to watch, well acted and politically charged Hollywood drama, yes. But above all things, it is a story about Africa and how the world continues to placate the violence by turning and looking away. Blood Diamond is as unyielding and unnerving as anything I have seen this year. You should absolutely see it. And once you have seen it, I assure you that you will think twice before purchasing diamonds in the future.
Final Grade: A
The Upside: DiCaprio and Hounsou are as fantastic a pair of actors as any, and together with Ed Zwick they have made one of the more powerful films of 2006.
The Downside: It can be very difficult to watch at times, but that is only due to the films honesty about the subject matter.
On the Side: Djimon Hounsou will also star in the upcoming film Eragon.