Blood Diamond: Entertaining Action, Flawed Story
by Alex Billington
December 8, 2006
Edward Zwick's (Last Samurai, Courage Under Fire) latest film, Blood Diamond, explores the world of conflict diamonds, diamond smuggling, and the millions of people in Africa affected by the wars that diamond conflicts cause. Despite some flaws, this might be the most entertaining film that Edward Zwick has made: Zwick is a very capable director, as seen previously in his other films, and an interesting message is brought to light.
Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a South African mercenary and a diamond smuggler. Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) is a Mende fisherman, a loving husband, and a father of three children. The diamond mining industries in South Africa and Sierra Leone finance various rebel organizations that are in a brutal war with their own governments. The rebels raid Solomon's home town, capture Solomon and later his family, and take him to a forced-labor camp to mine for diamonds in a river. Solomon finds an enormous rare pink gem while mining and buries it. When the government then raids the mine, he is captured and jailed. It's here where Danny Archer first hears about the diamond and finds Solomon afterwards and makes a promise that he can get his family back if they go find it together. Amidst the chaos, Danny meets Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), an American journalist looking for a story that can help end the bloodshed and change the world. Together these three set off on an adventure to recover the diamond and save their own lives.
Half of the movie is spent running or yelling, with Solomon on the verge of breakdown nearly every minute as his passion to get his family back fuels every decision. The story borders on the line of being "too Hollywood" but fortunately keeps the entertainment factor high, thanks to Zwick's abilities as a director. Plenty of gunfights and explosive action scenes are found throughout, but they fit believably in a story of three strangers who begin to work together to try and change this world for the better.
I love how Zwick keeps the tension high and -- most importantly -- the entire story enjoyable, without falling into clichÃ©. Some movie-goers out there will love the nearly-unrealistic but entertainingly satisfying plot, but others will feel disappointed by the lack of intellectualism in favor of more action. Blood Diamond isn't a masterful filmmaking creation, but it is a fulfilling action adventure romp through Africa.
I don't normally pay attention to plot holes and pacing problems, but Blood Diamond demonstrates a few key errors that are hard to ignore. For example, the friendly bartender in South Africa who was gleaming with wisdom and kindness is killed within a minute, which is not even shown. His bar is burned and there is just one shot of him lying dead - then he is never mentioned again. I understand cuts need to be made, but there are enough of these one-off characters and forgotten moments that, were they more developed or omitted from the final cut, could've made Blood Diamond just a little bit better.
The performances are nothing outstanding - DiCaprio and Connelly are their typical selves, with better performances from each found in The Departed and Little Children respectively. Hounsou tries hard to be the emotional strongpoint, but keeps switching between a yelling, crying, and angry father figure and a pacifist, contingent, and controlled individual who's always being overshadowed and controlled by Danny Archer, DiCaprio's character.
The message that they are trying to emphasize about conflict diamonds is fairly clear and not too overdone - except for the blatant end title card requesting that consumers make sure they don't buy conflict diamonds. In addition, an emotionally tear-jerking ending that Zwick attempts doesn't succeed as hoped. It loses the believability that the rose blossom ending in Zwick's The Last Samurai accomplished. In turn, Blood Diamond feels hollow at the end where it could have brought out a much more satisfying and enduring message.
Blood Diamond's entertaining and powerful action sequences help keep the otherwise drowning story afloat. Filled with too many holes and slightly clichÃ©d instances, Blood Diamond's story is its biggest negative along with middle-of-the-road performances from the big name stars. However, Zwick is a rare director that can still pull enjoyment and a powerful message out of such a film, and does so gracefully. It's worth your viewing time if you're looking for some quality action scenes and a thrilling adventure.