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Overall Rating
3.74

Awesome: 29.07%
Worth A Look: 29.07%
Average34.88%
Pretty Bad: 1.16%
Total Crap: 5.81%

7 reviews, 44 user ratings


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Blood Diamond
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by Peter Sobczynski

"This Diamond Is Deeply Flawed"
3 stars

If Stanley Kramer were still alive and making movies, he might have come up with something along the lines of “Blood Diamond.” For those of you with short memories, Kramer was a filmmaker from the 1950's-60's who specialized in making films that tackled the Great Issues of the day–among his works were “The Defiant Ones,” “On the Beach” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Although popular enough in their day, his films haven’t aged very well over the years because while he did choose subject matter that was controversial for the time, he dealt with the material in a glossy and superficial manner that would allow audiences to feel morally upright for watching them without presenting anything that might shock, challenge or provoke them–“On the Beach” was an anti-nuke film that dealt with a radiation cloud that was slowly killing off all life on Earth but refused to explain how the cloud came to be in the first place (was it a war or a terrible accident?) or to show either the effects of radiation poisoning or even a single dead body. Although there are plenty of dead bodies on display in “Blood Diamond,” it has more or less the same problems as Kramer’s films–it wants to tackle a hard-hitting topic, the illicit trade in so-called “conflict diamonds” and how the desire for such baubles has perpetuated unthinkable violence in the African nations where they are found, but it also wants to provide a evening’s entertainment for audiences who are more interested in a satisfying night at the movies instead of the miseries of Africa.

Set in Africa’s war-torn Sierra Leone region in 1999, “Blood Diamond” opens as a peaceful village and its people are violently attacked by a group of rebel soldiers who are currently waging a war against the ruling government–many are killed, others have their hands chopped off for the crime of voting and some are kidnapped and forced into labor camps to search for diamonds that will be sold to unscrupulous diamond companies in order to finance their brutality. Among the enslaved is Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a humble fisherman who was captured after helping his wife and three children flee. While digging, Solomon comes across a freakishly large diamond and decides to keep it for himself. While burying it, he is discovered by a sadistic guard but before anything can happen, government forces invade the camp and everyone is thrown into prison, where word of the priceless rock comes to Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a diamond smuggler who has been jailed after losing a valuable shipment destined for the corrupt Colonel Coetzee (Arnold Vosloo).

Realizing that the stone, if it exists, is his ticket out of the region for good, Danny arranges for Solomon’s release and offers to be his partner in retrieving and selling the diamond. To prove his sincerity, or at least a vague approximation of such, Danny uses Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), a crusading American journalist in town to piece together an expose of the conflict diamond industry, to help Solomon track down the refugee camp where his family has turned up. When they arrive, it turns out that his beloved young son, Dia (Kagiso Kuypers), has been taken by the rebels and inducted into their ranks as a gun-toting, drug-shooting child soldier. From there, Solomon and Danny begin their perilous trek towards the diamond’s hiding place while facing potential trouble from the rebel troops, the colonel and his men and their own wildly different motives for finding the rock.

“Blood Diamond” is a film that cries out for the narrative approach of something like “Traffic” or “Syriana” that takes a look at a controversial subject by taking a multi-layered look at the subject–we could follow the impact of conflict diamonds through the eyes of the people forced to mine from them, the rebels who wage war financed by them, the corrupt diamond industry that knowingly turns a blind eye to what their money is paying for, the smugglers who profit by getting the stones from one place to another and the consumers who are constantly being lured to continue purchasing them because of their supposed scarcity. In fact, the film starts off this way but director Edward Zwick and screenwriter Charles Leavitt quickly streamline the proceedings into a more straightforward narrative with a pure and noble hero who only wants to save his son, a self-centered anti-hero who will most likely do the right thing when the screenplay requires it, a sweet-faced child in need of saving, a depraved one-eyed villain in need of destroying and a sexy reporter who seems to only pop up when her presence is absolutely required to move the story along and is otherwise forgotten. Towards the end, the film abandons whatever pretense towards reality it might have been clinging on to and devolves into a series of noisy action scenes in which thousands of bullets are fired at our heroes with nary a scratch, a tearful reunion between father and son, a noble climactic speech and a finale that sees the evil diamond industry exposed and Solomon surviving to tell his story to the world. For anyone who has made an emotional investment in “Blood Diamond” up until this point, these final scenes will come across as enraging for the way that they try to apply a happy ending to a subject where such things were few and far between.

At the same time, while “Blood Diamond” isn’t an especially profound or powerful film, it is an undeniably well-made one. Zwick keeps the story moving along at a breakneck pace and shows an ability for staging both large-scale action scenes (although the inability of the bad guys to ever actually hit one of the good guys gets a little ridiculous) and the small-scale character-driven moments. He also finds a way of negotiating the tricky material involving the atrocities perpetrated by the child soldiers so that the horror of what they are being brainwashed to do is depicted in an unflinching manner without tripping over into creepy exploitation. The central performances are strong as well. Although it pales in comparison to his stunning turn in “The Departed,” DiCaprio, decked out with a reasonably convincing Afrikaner accent, is quite good as the self-centered and amoral Danny, though even he is unable to fully sell the cheesiness of his character’s final scene. Hounsou, in what is easily his most memorable work since he first made a splash as the only worthwhile element of Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad,” is even more powerful and convincing in the rage and anguish that he brings to the role of Solomon. There are also a gallery of memorable supporting turns, especially the one from Arnold Vosloo as the fearsome colonel who will do anything to get whatever it is that he wants. The only weak link comes from Jennifer Connelly as the reporter and this is less because of the performance itself, which is just fine, and more because the screenplay has no idea what to do with her–there is no time for romance and it is implausible that she will come along on the final trek for the diamond–and she winds up just drifting away as a result.

“Blood Diamond” is a well-meaning drama that is never quite as powerful or moving as it clearly thinks itself to be. It was no doubt made with the best intentions and perhaps the filmmakers felt that the only way that they could get audiences to listen to them regarding the evils of conflict diamonds was to place the issue within the framework of a conventional action-drama. They may be right in the sense that it will probably lure people into theaters but it is unlikely to fire them up in any significant way. Essentially, the film is a lot like the kind of “Vanity Fair” article that inspired it in the first place–it tells a story that needs to be told and may even inspire momentary senses of outrage and sorrow that fade from the mind the minute that the story ends and the page is turned.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15293&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/08/06 16:14:38
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User Comments

8/27/13 Lozz <3 Fantastic, loved it!!! 5 stars
1/31/11 cambellar a movie worth watching..and touchy 5 stars
6/10/09 matt slightly numbing, but well made with a great script. 4 stars
10/03/08 R.W. Welch Realistic and well acted. Has an authentic air to it. 4 stars
9/04/08 Rachel A thought provoking action film. Underrated. 4 stars
6/18/08 mr.mike Not bad , despite unconvincing moments and some overly Bondian action scenes. 4 stars
4/02/08 dii this movie makes me crying when I watch it in second time caused Archer's sacrifice. 3 stars
3/22/08 Matt the best movie, effectively portrayed the conflict in africa, intense and captivating 5 stars
1/24/08 Double M Too much hollywood to be really powerful. Leo & Djimon barely elevate it to "Worth A Look". 4 stars
10/17/07 Beau Its Worth a look, great photography and acting! leo is great 4 stars
10/08/07 widhi wwardhana grat movie and great acting of Leo and Djimon. 5 stars
9/11/07 Grayfoxx Awesome movie. Definitely worth watching. 5 stars
7/17/07 Matt Leo's awful accent aside, this is thought provoking especially for those of us in Africa. 3 stars
7/03/07 Ingrid This was a very bad movie 1 stars
7/02/07 Grefg Blood crap....bad acting, lame dialog, shitty screenplay, buggy script 1 stars
6/24/07 dt ok, if a bit predictable 3 stars
6/21/07 Rayven omg leo was incredible as he was in departed, an important film 5 stars
6/15/07 Nikita This film really opened my eyes up to the life and torture in Sierra Leone. 5 stars
6/05/07 Dicapri God A quality piece of filmmaking, LD cracking as usual 4 stars
5/01/07 Lynn Great movie - However, Dicaprio's Aussie accent really sucks 4 stars
4/28/07 Indrid Cold Doesn't really make any mistakes, but ends up not making much of an impact. 4 stars
4/22/07 Monday Morning LDiC gets better with every film he does. Excellent movie ths, too. 5 stars
4/16/07 Matt Awesome. Great acting. THe best movie I've seen in a while 5 stars
4/03/07 fools&#9835;gold The ending is a big wet dream (I'm not sure if that's a complement or not). 4 stars
4/02/07 ad great acting, nice story 5 stars
3/27/07 james floyd one of best movies I've seen in a long time 5 stars
3/21/07 action movie fan good gun battles, but too long,ponderous and hard to follow 3 stars
3/16/07 Donny M More boring than a drive to grandmas 1 stars
2/19/07 Luji Excellent movie, Leo more convincing than ever before... turned me off diamonds for sure! 5 stars
2/07/07 arjee labajo its a good movie.., its interesting movie 5 stars
1/31/07 MP Bartley Hectoring, but powerful. DiCaprio is slick with the accent, but Hounsou is tremendous. 4 stars
1/27/07 Frenzy.nl Greats story, great acting 5 stars
1/15/07 plim thought-provoking 5 stars
1/14/07 lee this is the most brilliant acting/screenplay/purpose to any movie I have ever seen. Period. 5 stars
1/04/07 Luisa Definitely worth seeing, Djimon is a great actor 4 stars
1/03/07 Jess Must-See FIlm! I will never buy a diamond again. 5 stars
12/27/06 Bert Kaplan Bloody, yes. A diamond, not even close. 2 stars
12/22/06 Quigley Not as entertaining as made out to be; Dicaprio excellent but he said "huh?" like 500 times 3 stars
12/17/06 qdog one of the best movies of the year 5 stars
12/12/06 The Harkman An eye opener. I appareciated it. 5 stars
12/12/06 Tiffany hmm Leo was cute. And he had a cool voice. movie was ok. 4 stars
12/11/06 Wendy Straw worth seeing 3 stars
12/09/06 SeanS One of the year's worst. The screenplay is simply appalling. 1 stars
12/08/06 Annadamma Painfully obvious beyond reason- of course this stuff happening is awful... DUH. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 20-Mar-2007

UK
  N/A

Australia
  04-Jan-2007




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