Blood Diamond maintains a certain level of intensity that will certainly stir the soul and perhaps inspire activism. But unfortunately, it also tries a little too hard to convey its message about global conflict.
Diamond is set against the backdrop of civil war and chaos in 1990s Sierra Leone, where we once again witness sheer, mindless brutality against innocent people. It doesn't much bother Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), though. As a South African mercenary, he has wheeled and dealed most of his life to survive. He simply labels the atrocities as "TIA," as in "This is Africa." His latest gig is smuggling conflict diamonds out of the war-torn area, but Archer's jaded point of view is changed slightly when he joins Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou)--a local fisherman whose family has been ripped away from him--on a quest for a rare pink diamond that could transform their lives. With the help of American journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), who's there to try and make a difference, the two men trek through dangerous rebel territory--a journey that could save Solomon's family and give Archer the second chance he thought he would never have.
Both DiCaprio and Hounsou are already being Oscar-touted for their performances--and deservedly so. DiCaprio once again plays an antihero--you know, the R-rated guy you aren't quite sure you trust--but he does so this time with a very colloquial South African accent. It's a bit jarring at first, as if the actor is trying to do a British accent but not very well. Then you realize how spot-on it actually is and marvel at the nuances DiCaprio incorporates into the performance. Matching him step for step is Oscar-nominee Hounsou (In America) as the tortured Solomon. Of course, it's through his eyes we see just how horrific the situation is, and Solomon's quiet determination to get his family back is etched over the actor's chiseled features. Connelly is no slouch either, looking tousled and gorgeous, despite the hell she goes through. But a noted standout is Kagiso Kuypers, who--in his debut performance--plays Solomon's young son, taken by the rebels and forced to become a killing machine. It just gives you shivers.
If you aren't quite sure what a conflict, or "blood," diamond is, they are stones that have been smuggled out of countries at war, which are then used as a way to pay for more arms, increasing the death toll and violence in the region. Back in the late '90s, at the height of the conflict diamond industry, only a small percentage of these gems got into the Western market, but it was still a very viable and profitable business. It has all been curtailed greatly since then--and Sierra Leone is currently at peace--but Blood Diamond is a way to remind us how precarious it still can be. Director Ed Zwick (The Last Samurai) hammers this home with vivid images of human cruelty and suffering. But unlike its counterpart Hotel Rwanda, which concentrated on one individual and how he dealt with the atrocities, there are actually too many angles to the Diamond story, too many messages. It diffuses the film's impact and drags it down, rather than strengthen it. Still, the diamond industry might see a decline in sales.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.