by RISHI AGRAWAL
In Sierra Leone in the mid-90s, a diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) learns that a native named Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) has found (and hidden) an enormous diamond that could be worth millions. Getting help from a reporter named Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), Archer agrees to help Vandy reunite with his family. Archer will also help recover the diamond and negotiate its sale. In exchange, Vandy will split his profits with Archer. Edward Zwick directs.
A lot of people will make the easy comparison here with Hotel Rwanda, as the background of the movie concerns the rebel forces trying to overthrow the government. In trying to seize control, they slaughter the population along the way. However, I think the violence, though an integral part of the movie, is not necessarily the point of the film. I am not saying that the violence was the point of Hotel Rwanda either, but it seemed somewhat more central there. In Blood Diamond, the violence, though shocking, does not overtake the viewer as much, because the population that was being slaughtered had a large degree of anonymity. Perhaps that is why the violence did not seem as real, because the victims weren’t humanized as much. And maybe that’s a flaw in Blood Diamond, but I think the film still captured the randomness and senselessness of the whole situation.
The utter randomness of death in this movie probably didn’t touch the viewers as much as it could have. Despite their faults, I still empathized with the main characters. And though there were some exciting action sequences, I never truly feared for the main characters’ lives because, well, the movie was obviously not over yet. As long as there was still plot to unravel, I knew that the main characters could not die. This made the last half hour of the movie especially interesting because the key points in the plot had played out, and general tension set in – there was no way to know what would happen next.
But there was still real tension in the movie between the characters. A lot of the tension truly centered on Archer. In the movie, Archer is a real bastard, so you never know how he is going to react to certain situations. And just when you think Archer has grown a heart, he does something to throw you for a loop. There was real tension here between Vandy and Archer. The disagreed over the best course of action frequently, as Vandy was motivated by the search for his family and Archer was motivated by greed. Also, we never really knew who was in control. Since Vandy was the only one who knew where the diamond was hidden, you would think he was holding all the cards. Unfortunately, Archer’s experience and expertise often trumped Vandy, leading to an interesting dynamic. To some degree there was also some tension between Archer and Bowen, though their relationship as reporter and subject were more interesting than the quasi-romantic relationship in the movie. Still, though this relationship did not add as much to the movie as it could have, it didn’t subtract anything either.
This is, of course, a “message” movie, talking about the evils of the diamond trade. But that’s okay. Occasionally, movies should be allowed to have an agenda. This is a movie that, perhaps for an instance, makes people think twice about buying diamonds the same way that The Insider made people think twice about buying cigarettes. Perhaps, ultimately, the movie will not change anything, but that does not mean the message should be left unsaid.
3 1/2 stars