BLOOD DIAMOND (Edward Zwick)
a short take by Tony McRae
There are two categories of diamonds coming out of Africa, those produced from the mines of South Africa Namibia and other countries, and those coming from west central Africa’s streams. These are called “conflict diamonds” because many are illegally traded for weapons used by rebel leaders and outlaw governments to wipe our whole populations in order to control a region or country.
This story (which takes place in Sierra Leone in 1999) is about these conflict diamonds, and one diamond of great worth in particular. The movie follows a father Solomon Vandy who searches for his family after they’ve been taken from him. He’s made a prisoner by the rebels and forced to work the streams. He finds the great diamond, buries it. He does escape—without the diamond—is thrown in prison by government forces.
He meets an ex South African soldier Danny Archer who is a trafficker in diamonds and together they set out on an odyssey to recover the diamond and Solomon’s family.
This is both an old-fashioned adventure movie and a heart-rending picture of west central Africa’s incredible plight where people kill one another by the thousands. It’s also an indictment of the diamond industry which is concerned only for its profits—which are enormous. For me the most disturbing aspect of the movie is the training of very young children to kill upon demand.
The cast is terrific. Leonardo DiCaprio has come a long way since “Titanic”; he has evolved into one of our truly fine actors. He is totally believable as the rather repellent diamond runner who eventually redeems himself. But ultimately the story depends on Solomon, played by Djimon Hounsou in an Oscar worthy performance. His love for his family is so palpable that we can ignore some of the film’s improbabilities. Also in an important role is Jennifer Connelly as an American reporter who matches wits with DiCaprio.
Though this movie is what can be called an epic in the old fashioned sense of the term, it is an epic driven more by human emotions than battles and bloodletting. The African scenery is breathtakingly beautiful.
Rated R for strong violence and language.