Blood Diamond: Entertaining Action, Flawed Story

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.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer and Jennifer Connelly as Maddy Bowen, who together form a rough relationship while on their adventures in Blood Diamond.

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 cliché. 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.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou running to escape an attack from a rebel organization in Blood Diamond.

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.

Last Word:
Blood Diamond's entertaining and powerful action sequences help keep the otherwise drowning story afloat. Filled with too many holes and slightly clichéd 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.

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Flawed story? that's a rather biased comment. I'm ticked off because the weekend Today show on NBC just totally cut off Djimon Hounsou in their interview--as soon as I got to the "offensive" stuff that shows how ugly all this is they quickly re-directed it and ended up on commercial. ...yet they gave some old single lady like 5 or 6 minutes to talk about how to be single this holiday season. Does this tell you where are priorities are?

jeff on Dec 9, 2006


I don't intend it to be offensive, however as I said in the review, I think some of the problems were in the story and the telling of it. I think I need a second viewing to maybe give it a better interpretation, but it was just weak the most in the story. I hear ya about NBC. TV really sucks for promotion. Too many people watch it so they realize they have to do interviews and promotion on there, but then you can't forget it is TV, and it's just one big mush of crap. I feel like it doesn't even help, but then I realize when I see a trailer run during a commercial break that this is probably the only time a majority of the people out there ever hear about a movie... Such a shame!

Alex Billington on Dec 9, 2006


I disagree with you about Solomon. The reason he is "overpowered" by Archer is because he is left with no other choice, and being a man of integrity he is not about to compromise his values regardless of his desperate situation. Not only does the relationship between these two characters seem realistic when examining the social history of the setting, but the chacracters serve as moral foils for one another. To address your critique of Hounsou's character again, a question; Do you know anyone who in this character's scenerio wouldn't "[keep] switching between a yelling, crying, and angry"? On another note...What exactly do you find wrong the "blatant end title card requesting that consumers make sure they don't buy conflict diamonds."? Isn't that the main purpose of this film? Also, if the film weren't bordering on "Hollywood", with big name stars how would that message get to those who needed it most? Do you really think people who watch Indie films are not already informed on this issue?

Elizabeth on Jan 2, 2007


Elizabeth: Ok, I somewhat agree with your interpretation of Solomon. I think the writing and script was the problem and that's where it caused him to too often and too unrealistically switch between those emotions, whereas Hounsou is a talented actor and that isn't necessarily his fault. My issue is just how drastically the changes were made and where I think it would have been better off to see a more developed character in the writing that followed a smoother path of emotions instead of being so completely polar from one side to another. If he is yelling and screaming for his son, then he should be yelling and screaming at X to get his son back. As for the ending title card, my issue with that was that I prefer films that attack a realistic subject that they want to portray strongly purely in the plot and definition of the film. That's where the intellectualism peaks. Take, for example, Babel, that wasn't stating such a specific issue, but I thought got its message across fairly well without having title cards at the end to state what they were trying to say. That's my problem with it. I do know the point of the film, but they can achieve that without coming out and telling you. They even mentioned that in one of the interviews they (the filmmakers) didn't want to be too obvious about trying to make this impact... and although this wasn't a killer, I did want to mention it just to... well, mention it. Thanks for the comments - much appreciated! I love discussing films so reply back if you've got more to add. 🙂

Alex Billington on Jan 3, 2007


Still not sure why you think Solomon was in the position to mouth off to unpredictable people who are skilled with weapons? If Solomon yelled and screamed at X he would not have lived to see his family make it to safety. As for the filmmakers, you always have to consider that they are part of an industry, which means however pure their intentions are, there is always someone involved with an ulterior motive, so if something isn't adding up, that is probably why. Most of the time, I too feel more satisfied with a film which inspires more introspection to truly absorb the meaning. As an artist, I do not seek immediate gratification during my trip to the movie theatre, however, a lot of society does. All I can say is that sometimes the general population needs to be 'hit over the head' when it comes to certain issues. Maybe if the message is too obvious, it doesn't always sink in, but there are those who this film may not have penetrated and affected if it did not possess this quality; For that reason, I am glad it was made, and find it hard to criticize.

Elizabeth on Jan 6, 2007


Forget the conventions of movie making and concentrate on what's more important, the story itself. This is what is wrong with American society: too much superficiality, selfishness, and false sense of security. No one seems to want to face reality. There are animal rights activists who protest the wearing of fur coats because to get them animals have to be killed. Some of these same people are wearing diamonds that have the blood of Black people on them. Go figure.

Joann on Feb 26, 2007


dnt forget but it was a great movie telling us about wat happens in africa

holla 082 on May 20, 2008

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