Blood Diamond


Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Blood Diamond
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Diamonds are forever” the ads say, but they don’t say that some of these precious stones are used to fund rebellion and terror. Taken from his family, Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) is forced to work the diamond mines in Sierra Leone and finds a large, rough stone of incredible value and buries it. Soldier of fortune and pro smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) learns of the valuable rock and wants it for himself. Circumstance and war throw the two together and they team to recover the hidden stone in “Blood Diamond.”

Robin:
Director Edward Zwick takes an old-fashioned action thriller idea and breathes new life into the genre. Solomon is a humble fisherman who wants just to live in peace, do his job and love his family, especially his son Dia (Kagiso Kuypers). But, a revolution is taking place in his country and armed convoys of rebels are indiscriminately slaughtering villagers and taking the men as slaves to work in the lucrative diamond mines.

The plan is to flood the world market with the precious gems to finance rebellion (and earn the rebel leaders a tidy sum). The world’s diamond purveyors (read: de Beers and company), though, want to keep quantities low and the prices high. In steps someone like Danny Archer, a tough, smart, extraordinarily well-trained mercenary with the connections to channel the conflict gems of the title into the hands of the cartel that controls them worldwide. He knows the names, the smuggling routes and how to get his hands on the goods and has made a comfortable living on it.

When Danny’s luck runs out and he is imprisoned for diamond smuggling, he crosses paths with silent Solomon. A wounded prisoner is brought into the jail and the man, a rebel who knows, accuses Vandy of possessing a huge rose-hued uncut diamond. Archer sees the altercation and, after his release from prison, contacts Solomon. His plan is, simply - have Vandy lead him to the stone and take it. Respect and friendship, though, force a change of plans for the merc.

As his relationship with Solomon grows, Danny bumps into Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), a hard-charging, compassionate magazine journalist in Africa to expose the violence, political corruption and suffering the blood diamonds inflict on innocents. Archer has information with which Maddy could savage the diamond industry and its world monopoly. He tantalizes her with THE BIG SCOOP in return for her help.

Danny and Maddy have a great deal of attraction and chemistry but the potential passion is only alluded to as they get down to the business of saving Solomon and his family. No sex, just a man and a woman being equal - brave, capable and compassionate and attracted to each other. In another movie, the two would ride off into the sunset, but not here.

Leonardo DiCaprio is two for two this year with his outstanding performance as an undercover cop in “The Departed” and, now, an equally effective performance in “Blood Diamond.” The actor nails the nasal cadence of an Afrikaner’s speech, uses facial expression to say volumes and is aces at the action. His quick, cat-like movement in battle ring true and I can only imagine what the actor physically and mentally went through to achieve such convincing demeanor and grace of movement. Leonardo is on my short list for best actor consideration. I just don’t for which role.

Djimon Hounsou gives a supporting actor award-worthy performance as everyman Solomon Vandy who must overcome extraordinary obstacles to save his family. Hounsou’s is a layered performance as a kind man, good husband and loving father, testing these qualities against violence, mayhem and massacre. You feel his helpless rage when a rebel leader uses Dia as a pawn to find the whereabouts of the precious stone. When that rage finally bursts forth, the actor makes it palpable and evokes your empathy.

Jennifer Connelly provides a smart, 3D performance as the beautiful journo who is much more than just a pretty face (though she is dead bang gorgeous). Her role could have easily been written for a man but Connelly conveys both the femininity and capability of Maddy with compassion. The rest of the supporting cast, including Arnold Vosloo as the duplicitous Colonel Coetzee, helps flesh out the background with realistic fully dimensioned characters.

Edward Zwick leads an exemplary behind camera crew to South African and Mozambique locations and gives Blood Diamond” a genuine, believable look. Master cinematographer Eduardo Serra captures the scope of sudden battle and the devastation that can be wrought by modern weaponry on mere flesh. The production design, by Dan Weil, is exemplary, steeping the film in its exotic locations.

Blood Diamond” covers old ground but with a current twist as it deals with modern issues of terrorism, political upheaval and armed conflict. But there is also the personal story of familial lover, father and son, friendship and the hint of romance. It is a nice package, well done. I give it a B+.

Laura:
Laura gives "Blood Diamond" a B.
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