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Customer Review

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Diamonds Are Forever, 10 April 2007
This review is from: Blood Diamond [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
Ed Zwick would have you believe this legend: "Africa's soil runs red because of all the blood that has been spilt". Certainly his film is not for the squeamish. There's a lot of blood. Buckets of it. Not like in the noughties fascination with gross out horror and violence, but the real, more (in)human kind. Set against the backdrop of the Sierra Leone civil war, Blood Diamond does not flinch in the face of portraying atrocities at their most brutal.

Like oil, gold and ivory before it, the trade (mostly illegal) in `conflict' diamonds has brought out the worst in people. Wherever greed and exploitation rule, inevitably there are those who suffer the consequences.

Guerrilla insurgency, fuelled and bankrolled by the illegal trade in diamonds across the Libyan border, is tearing Sierra Leone apart. Death squads and militants ransack villages, killing potential opposition, raping women and chopping off the arms of would-be voters. Solomon (Djimon Hounsou), a local fisherman, dreams of putting his son Dia through medical school and helping him out of the squalor rapidly invading his homeland. However, bandits overthrow his village, kidnap and brainwash his son into a gun-toting smack-addled killer. Solomon is thrown into a diamond mine and stumbles upon a huge pink fortune. The mine is then `liberated' by the army and whilst incarcerated Solomon catches the attention of small time smuggler Danny Archer (a brilliant Leonardo DiCaprio), who offers to help him find his missing son, in exchange for the location of the diamond.

A great deal has been made of DiCaprio's performance here. Backed by standout turns in The Aviator and The Departed, he's made a bold move away from the supposed poster boy image. In fact if it weren't for the critical blip that was Titanic, DiCaprio would surely be afforded far more credibility than he currently commands. Complete with authentic accent, his immoral, swearing, drinking, spitting Rhodesian diamond smuggler is not an easy character to like, yet such is the one time Romeo's depth and understanding of his character, he becomes impossible to hate even if you continue to question his moral standing.

Jennifer Connolly gets a refreshing role as hard-bitten reporter Maddy Bowen. Drawn into the search for the nominal gem Connolly has a fair stab at injecting some sincerity into the token `voice of the people' role, even if her character is crow-barred into a romantic subplot. She, it must be said, is also stunning. Unfortunately the underappreciated and always effective Djimon Hounsou (although garnering an Oscar nod) grapples earnestly with a character that, despite all the noble intentions and conflicted interests, remains the most under written. Solomon is a good man, he wants simple things and apparently has not a bad bone in his body, but his journey is seemingly the polar opposite of pretty much province all the remaining characters, as if he alone represents the good in the war torn.

Amidst the socio-political tub-thumping, Blood Diamond delivers a pacey and exciting action thriller. Its set pieces are skilfully handled, expertly edited and carry an unrelenting sense of peril. Zwick's camera is happy revelling in panoramic landscapes, refuses to flinch in some of the more shocking moments.

Zwick has done large-scale action before, of course, with The Last Samurai, but hadn't had to structure his narrative around such a contemporary subject. Yes, Blood Diamond is a violent movie, but probably only so because it is not easily detached in terms of fantasy.

It's a shame that, two thirds in, Blood Diamond turns on its heels and follows a far more traditional rites of passage/triumph over adversity theme that, while executed perfectly, sits uneasily alongside the context and tone set throughout the first 80 minutes.

Ending with a simple caption: "It is up to the consumer to insist on non-conflict diamonds", there is a huge doubt whether a movie such as this will cut any dent into the illegal trade of diamonds or indeed the plight of Africa as a whole. More likely (and sadly) as with The Constant Gardener, celebrities and the general public will be up in arms concerning this latest moral dilemma and as soon as the statuettes are handed out, Hollywood and its larger audience will be looking for the next big theme to latch upon. In the meantime Edward Zwick's part political reasoning and part all out adventure is engaging and entertaining, whilst also being appalling and thought provoking.
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