Casual Rambling
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Casual Rambling

Movie Review: Blood Diamond

Rating: 3 Stars

To Blood Diamond’s credit, if the movie began with a text screen saying, “Based on a true story,” I would be inclined to believe it. Often times in films that have historical significance, major characters are compromised in subtle ways to evoke a stronger emotional reaction. Reality is never as picturesque or poetic as Hollywood, and we inherently know that, as much as we don’t want to believe it.

It’s refreshing that in Blood Diamond, our cast of characters, despite being fictional, play like genuine people. The performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou carry the film. The film’s writing complements DiCaprio and Hounsou’s characters with only a loosely written romantic affair being the lull.

As an unapologetic DiCaprio fan, it is otherworldly how he transforms himself into entirely different people in role after role. DiCaprio plays Danny Archer, a white man from Zimbabwe who grew up in the warring militaristic conditions of South Africa. Archer is a mercenary diamond smuggler with ties to a diamond company executive named Van De Kaap.

The process of diamond smuggling in Africa is simple and brutal. The film takes place in Sierra Leone, a country ravaged by civil war. The government fights against the RUF (Revolutionary United Front). Both sides show no mercy or regard for human life. The RUF enslaves Africans to find diamonds that can be traded for arms in the war. This is where Archer comes in, giving arms to whichever side will pay in diamonds, and in turn taking the diamonds to the highest bidder. Archer is the film’s protagonist, but he is certainly no hero, and is self-aware of the vicious cycle he is participating in.

The film opens with Solomon Vandy (Hounsou). Vandy’s village is raided by the RUF who capture Vandy and force him to search for diamonds. Vandy’s family escapes, but Vandy’s son is eventually captured by the RUF.

Vandy comes across a giant diamond and attempts to hide it from RUF Commander Poison. The diamond field is then attacked by government forces who imprison both Poison and Vandy. In the prison, Poison accuses Vandy of hiding the diamond. Archer, who was also imprisoned after being caught smuggling, overhears the conversation. After Archer is released, he gets Vandy released and attempts to win his loyalty by helping Vandy find his family. In exchange, Archer hopes to take the diamond Vandy found. The film isn’t particularly clear if Vandy understands he’s being used by Archer. Why else would Archer ask Vandy to lead him to the diamond? With less capable actors, this plot-hole buries the movie.

The second and third act of the film consists of Archer getting Vandy out of close calls in search of Vandy’s family and the diamond.

There’s a third critical character in the film, Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connolly), a US Journalist. Bowen is the smart, sassy, veteran journalist that is also tasked with being DiCaprio’s love interest. Bowen is an altruistic cynic, while Archer is a realist and a cynic. The conversations between Bowen and Archer add context to the characters and the film itself, but to become romantically invested is the least believable part of the film.

The film takes several jabs at mainstream media coverage not caring about the blood diamond crisis or the constant violence in Africa. Western nations would rather remain unaware of the grief and sorrow that is placed on their fancy jewelry and wedding rings. The message is there, but it’s not explored much deeper than the surface level. We’re only afforded to be locked into DiCaprio’s journey, exploring his growth as a character and his relationship with Vandy.

Blood Diamond is a fine film, especially for DiCaprio fans that desire to see all of his work. For anyone looking for much more than that, you won’t find it here.

Blood Diamond had 5 Oscar nominations with no wins. DiCaprio and Hounsou got their deserved nominations. There was also a film editing nomination.

I was piqued by the last two nominations, a sound editing and sound mixing nomination. The Oscars are long overdue for a public explanation of what the criteria are for all their categories, especially sound mixing and sound editing. As far as sound was concerned, I noticed the film was divvied between sections of your usual orchestral scores with splashes of African music intermixed throughout.



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