Blood Diamond Review
By Joe Lozito
"Blood" for a Stone
The folks at DeBeers aren't going to be very happy about "Blood Diamond", director Edward Zwick's indictment of the diamond industry, but they can take comfort in one thing: at least it's not a very good movie. It's a shame since all the pieces seem to be in place for an exposé of so-called "conflict diamonds" (stones that are sold to finance wars): a talented cast and a director with a penchant for political grandstanding. But Mr. Zwick's film, from a screenplay by Charles Leavitt, is so sure of itself that it rarely rises above a "message movie".
With a wobbly South African accent, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Danny Archer, a lowlife who smuggles diamonds across the Sierra Leone border beneath the skin of goats. When he's captured by the authorities, he gets wind of an enormous pink diamond hidden by a local fisherman played by Djimon Hounsou. Mr. Hounsou's Solomon has been forced to work in the mines while he searches for his wife and children, taken during a raid of his village. Danny springs Solomon from prison and the two start a search for the diamond, which Solomon had to hide before being captured.
"Blood Diamond" is essentially an extended chase and it moves along briskly thanks to some stunning action sequences. The film drags occasionally along the way as Danny begins a flirtatious relationship with a self-righteous American reporter played with eye-batting ease by Jennifer Connelly. Ms. Connelly is a likeable actress, but she's saddled with the role of mouthpiece for the film. Much of her dialogue is preachy and didactic. "If the people back home knew that a diamond cost someone's arm, they wouldn't buy it," she tells Danny in an effort to get some facts for her story. I'm not sure what world this reporter is living in, but maybe she's heard of global warming or Iraq or any of the other subjects that humans show a inexhaustible capacity to turn a blind eye towards. Heck, cigarettes come with a warning right on the pack.
Certainly, there's a good story to be told about the atrocities committed in the name of conflict diamonds and when "Blood Diamond" is focused on telling that story instead of preaching it, the film can be powerful. Mr. Zwick does a great job setting up an atmosphere of uncompromising danger; watching "Blood Diamond" you feel that violence could erupt at any moment. Oddly, that makes the film's many escape scenes all the more unbelievable; the characters are able to get away one too many times.
Mr. DiCaprio rests on his considerable screen charisma to fill out his role. While that can work well ("Catch Me If You Can" being the reigning example), Danny needs to be a scoundrel that we're willing to love. But he winds up being paper-thin and an effort at a redemptive ending comes across as forced. Mr. Hounsou, on the other hand, manages to elevate Solomon above that clichéd "noble African" role that the actor has been saddled playing since "Amistad". Beneath the shocking brutality in "Blood Diamond" is the story of father searching for his son which, thanks to Mr. Hounsou's work, is nearly worth the price of admission.