In Sierra Leone life is cheap, but diamonds are priceless. Edward Zwick’s latest film Blood Diamond takes a look at a war ravaged continent and how both greed and guns rule the region.
Zwick tries to combine an action-adventure film, a moral lesson of the atrocities in the region, the a story of a man trying to reunite his family, and a love story between an American journalist and a mercenary rogue. That’s at least two stories too many, creating a two-hour and 30 minute plus running time
The story begins with the eruption of a civil war in Sierra Leone. The rebels attack villages and families to steal children to make into soldiers of their army.
Solomon Vandy’s (Djimon Hounsou) village is raided and he is taken prisoner to work the diamond mines. His family flees for their lives to a refugee camp, but his son (Caruso Kuypers) sadly finds himself drafted into the rebel army.
When the mine is liberated by the government soldiers, Solomon finds himself in prison. There he comes to the attention of mercenary and diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), as rumors of Solomon’s discovery of a large pink diamond fill Archer’s hopes at changing his fortune.
Archer agrees to help Solomon find his family for half of the diamond which he can sell on the black market. To aid them he enlists the help of an American photojournalist (Jennifer Connelly) who wants to break the story of conflict diamonds and smuggling, and put an end to the situation. The three use each other to get what each one needs, but can they stay alive long enough to find what Solomon has hidden?
Let’s start off with the good, since there’s plenty positive to talk about. The main performances are all well done and DiCaprio has had quite a year for himself with this film and The Departed (you can read that review over on RazorFine). Dijmon Hounsou gives a deeply emotional performance as a man whose life is coming apart at the seams, but still manages to attempt to hold things together.
The action scenes are well shot, and you feel like you are in the middle of a civil war as you watch the film. That said, the film is extremely violent including several scenes of young children killing without discrimination or mercy. It’s probably not a good family film.
The film’s main flaw is this – it tries to do too much. It wants to bring the world’s attention to the civil war raging in the region and how the conflict diamond trade continues to perpetuate the cycle. At the same time it wants to be an action/adventure movie as characters seek for hidden treasure. There’s also a love story, a search for family, delving into the past of Archer and his mercenary connections, and much more. The result is 150 minutes of too much.
Each of the stories separately work, at least to a degree. Together, however, they don’t quite mesh and the weight pulls down the film. Still… for patient viewers there’s plenty to see here and enjoy. That said, a more concise storyline and another trip through the editing machine would have greatly helped.