Blood Diamond (Zwick, 2006)

While on screen Leonardo DiCaprio flat out demands the viewer’s eye and without his Danny Archer, a conflicted South African mercenary turned diamond smuggler, Blood Diamond would be little more than a bogus Hollywood expose of social ills occurring thousands of miles away. His Archer is complicated, flawed, and unpredictable, a great anti-hero and foil to Djimon Hounsou’s Solomon Vandy, a noble fisherman in search of his kidnapped son in Sierra Leone circa 1999. A civil war rages between the seldom seen and ineffective government troops and the viscous rebel forces who needlessly slaughter villagers and journalists alike (one would think even America would take notice after a whole bus full of foreign writers are killed). Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, Courage Under Fire), Blood Diamond rightly emphasizes every important moment on these two men, Archer’s crafty will to live making an obvious compliment to Vandy’s quest to find his son, who has been brainwashed into being a child soldier for the rebel army. But this long, sometimes tedious film relies too heavily on it’s actors to push the story along, slowly adding to a falseness in narrative, outweighing the good intentions the filmmakers clearly had in bringing this sordid and brutal conflict into focus. More to the aesthetic point, the booming score heightens just at the right moments, the tears fall just in the right places, and only a few scenes ring true (the moment of truth between Vandy and his son is heart-wrenching mainly because of Hounsou’s acting skill). Which brings me back to Leo, who continues to amaze me with his adept ways of expressing sadness and grief without shedding a tear. He’s a craftsman who I’d follow into any story at this point. I think he’s the best we’ve got right now, and it’s a testament to his acting chops Blood Diamond works at all.

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