Despite fine performances, Blood Diamond is an unfortunate disappointment due to heavy handed direction which dilutes its message.
The main problem with Blood Diamond is that it is a film that repeats tired themes. Corruption, murder and civil war in Africa at the hands of rebels/international companies/governments can make compelling viewing in the hands of the right film maker (Cry Freedom, Hotel Rwanda and The Constant Gardener, etc). Yet director Edward Zwick just does not deliver, failing to pull at the heart strings with the characters dilemmas not scoring in the emotional stakes.
Blood Diamond is the story of Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a fisherman who lives in Sierra Leone where a civil war is being fought between the Government and rebel troops known as the RUF (Revolutionary United Front). When his village is attacked by the rebels, Solomon’s family flees as he is abducted and sent to work in the diamond fields.
Coming across a large pink diamond, Solomon buries it as government troops attack the mine field throwing all survivors in jail. There he comes across Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a former soldier turned diamond smuggler from Zimbabwe. Finding out that Solomon has possession of a diamond that can help him get out of Africa once and for all, Archer makes a deal with Solomon where he will help find his family if he leads him to the diamond.
Archer in turn comes to an agreement with American journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) who will use her resources to help locate Solomon’s family in exchange for inside information on who, where and how the illegal diamond trade works.
The action scenes are well shot but seem out of place, and the movie runs way to long with an extremely dismal and tacky ending ruining whatever credibility it had. The body count is high, the beautiful scenery undone by the brutal savagery of the rebels as the disturbing images of brainwashed children, high on drugs and trained to be killers.
Blood Diamond’s saving grace comes from Leonardo DiCaprio, who gives another career defining performance and, along with his work in The Departed has won this over this viewer. Djimon Honsou gives a powerful and emotive performance, although he can be a little over the top at times. Jennifer Connelly’s talents unfortunately are wasted, the Oscar winning actress delegated to nothing more than eye candy, although her role may be the most important as the journalist looking for a story big enough to garner the world’s attention.
And with that comes the question: does Blood Diamond make a big enough impact to actually change the attitude of a world obsessed with “bling”? Or is it a case of to little to late to actually make an impact amongst does whose only source of international affairs comes from the cinema’s they frequent?
The only thing for sure is as long as every rap video contains a Bentley with diamond incrusted steering wheels, and every new bride gushes over the shiny new rock on her finger, than the message is not getting across quick enough.