(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)
Blood Diamond can't win. It is getting criticized both by African countries who don't like how they are being portrayed in the movie, and by critics who say the film is just pretending to be a serious message movie. As they say in Blood Diamond when anything bad happens, "T.I.A." which stands for "This Is Africa." To be fair, Blood Diamond is depicting events in 1999 before controls on the diamond trade were put in place. On the other hand, this movie is preachy but doesn't make it as a serious film.
Blood Diamond brings together three disparate characters (see picture above). The first is a man (Djimon Hounsou) from Sierra Leone which had a civil war from 1991-1999. His village is attacked and his young son is conscripted into the rebel army. Hounsou is also kidnapped and forced to work in the diamond mines. He finds a very large diamond and buries it before fleeing the mine only to be thrown in prison. In prison, he is seen by a soldier of fortune and diamond smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio) who finds out about the diamond and plots to get it for himself. Also in the mix is an American reporter (Jennifer Connelly) who wants to get a big scoop on the blood diamond trade and thinks DiCaprio will give her the information she needs. These three people, of course, end up working together to find the diamond while being chased by lots of bad guys with guns, including a rebel leader (David Harewood) and DiCaprio's ex-commanding officer (Arnold Vosloo). I won't go any further and spoil the ending but you know that someone is going to find the diamond and that blood will spilled. I will say that there's a scene eerily reminiscent of Rob Hall, the mountain guide who was able to have a phone call with his wife while dying atop Mount Everest.
This movie isn't bad. In fact, when they stick to the action scenes, it's pretty good. The director, Edward Zwick, has lots of experience with battle scenes from doing two Denzel Washington films, Glory and Courage Under Fire. (You've probably seen Glory but put Courage Under Fire on your netflix list.) Unfortunately, two things happen when the bullets stop flying. First, Connelly starts preaching about the evils of the diamond trade and second, Leonardo DiCaprio opens his mouth. Connelly can act and she's playing an American so she doesn't have to do an accent. But she seems uncomfortable with all that preaching. She relaxes into her role later when she's out in the bush flirting with Leonardo. But DiCaprio, well, he can act sort of, but he's supposed to be South African and it's a bit painful. He has learned how to say a few lines with a nice South African accent like, "In America, you say bling bling. Here, we say bling bang." But when he's talking, his accent comes and goes, mostly goes. Luckily, Hounsou is from Benin so he's very believable as an actual African, and Vosloo is from South Africa. So there's some veracity.
Blood Diamond is trying to be a serious film. They even tack on several scenes of a UN conference talking about clamping down on the war diamond trade. But really there isn't much depth to this movie. It pales when you compare it to last year's international thriller, Syriana. That movie was full of plots and subplots and all sorts of three-dimensional characters, who were ambiguous and ambivalent in a John le Carré-esque way. It was great. On the other hand, Blood Diamond is a Saturday-night rental kind of movie. The Golden Globe nominations came out today and DiCaprio got nominated for Best Actor in both The Departed and Blood Diamond. Go figure.