Of Gems and Greed
One of the most serious films released during this holiday season concerns the stripping of diamonds in Africa's Sierra Leone during the 1990s. Blood Diamond, an intense action adventure, follows a mercenary struggler as he becomes involved with a tribal fisherman looking for his kidnapped son as well as with a journalist who wants to expose the corruption behind the exploitation of Africa's natural resources.
These three people come in contact with each other after Solomon (Djimon Honsou), a man separated from his family and coerced to work in the diamond mines, finds a huge pink diamond and then buries it, intending to come back later to retrieve the gem. When Danny (Leonardo DiCaprio), who calls himself "a soldier of fortune," learns about Solomon's diamond, he sees it as a way for him to finally get out of Africa. However, Solomon says he will lead Danny to the diamond only if he helps him find his son. Maddy (Jennifer Connelly), the idealistic journalist, insists on going along with these two men in order to gather information and photographs for her expose. Along their journey, Danny, Solomon and Maddy must come to grips with important moral issues, and serious disagreements arise among these very different individuals who have agendas of their own.
All this is happening amid a bloody civil war in Sierra Leone, a fact receiving major attention from filmmaker Edward Zwick (who also directed Glory, one of the best U.S. Civil War movies). Sequences of wild shooting sprees abound, the most disturbing of which involve young children not only being killed but also doing the shooting. That's why a warning needs to be issued here about the film's appropriate "R" rating for its extreme violence.
Although DiCaprio's South African accent is off-putting at first, he delivers a strong performance as a cynical former military man. Somehow, there's enough soul in this performance to make us believe his character is a much better man than he thinks he is. Honsou (In America) displays his usual magnificent screen presence, and we desperately want the man he plays to be reunited with his family, especially with his son. Unfortunately, even though she makes the best of it, Jennifer Connelly (Dark Water) is wasted in a limited role here.
Blood Diamond excels in showing the connection between the "conflict diamond" trade and the misery it causes. However, the movie's horrifying violence soon becomes repetitive, and some of those sequences should have been deleted. Still, this is a thought-provoking film and definitely a worthwhile one for fans of the action-adventure genre.
Personally, because of Blood Diamond , I'll cringe from now on whenever I hear someone singing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." And I'm asking Santa not to bring me -- or any members of my family -- items of jewelry made from conflict diamonds for Christmas.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “R” for strong violence and language.)