Edward Zwick directs this tale of a prized diamond, the hands through which it passes and the inhumanity that results from man's greed. Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a former Zimbabwean mercenary now living in Sierra Leone during the '91-'00 civil war. Archer hears that an imprisoned Mende fisherman, Solomon Vandy (Djimon Honsou), has found and hid a large, pink diamond whilst doing forced labour in the mines the guerrillas are using to fund their war. Vandy has escaped the camp but his son is left behind. Archer has the wherewithal to help him make the perilous return to the camp, though his motives are less honourable than those of the frantic father. An American Journalist Maddy Bowen is sniffing for a story and forms an attachment to Archer, who looks like a story all of his own. She's soon embarked upon the journey with them - her contacts as useful as those of Archer in securing a path through the dangerous terrain of this lawless country. It soon becomes apparent that Archer is not the only one who's heard about this giant pink jewel and the trio is beset by those intent on having it at every turn. Can they reach Vandy's son before the rebels brainwash him and make him yet another boy soldier? Can Maddy convince Archer to do the right thing for the right reason? Is there a heart in Archer's chest?
Leonardo DiCaprio puts a handsome face on an ugly industry: In parts of Africa, diamond mining fuels civil warfare, killing thousands of innocents and drafting preteen children as vicious soldiers. DiCaprio (The Departed
) plays Danny Archer, a white African soldier-turned-diamond-smuggler who gets wind of a large raw jewel found by Solomon Vandy, a native fisherman (Djimon Hounsou, In America
) recently escaped from enslavement by a brutal rebel leader. Archer offers a deal: He'll help Vandy find his war-scattered family if Vandy will share the diamond with him. Drawn into this web of exploitation is journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly, Little Children
), who agrees to help if Archer will tell her the details of how conflict diamonds make their way into the hands of the corporations who sell them to the Western world. DiCaprio is compelling because he never flinches from Archer's utter ruthlessness; Archer ends up doing the morally justifiable thing, but only because his desperate greed has led him to it. Hounsou and Connelly, though saddled with all the moral and political speeches, rise above the cant and keep the movie's treacherously formulaic plot rooted in human characters. But in the end, the story won't stick with you as much as the dead stillness in the child soldiers' eyes; the horror of African civil strife refuses to be contained by Blood Diamond
's uplifting message--and the movie is all the more potent as a result. --Bret Fetzer