Saturday, March 12, 2011

Blood Diamond

Edward Zwick seems to have a strong affinity for ethnically-charged war films and thrillers. As is pretty apparent from the title, this movie is about African conflict diamonds, specifically ones coming from Sierra Leone during a brutal civil war in the 90s. Blood diamonds aren't as widespread as they were a few years ago, but they're still in circulation, and as long as people are making violent action dramas anyway, it's nice that sometimes they can actually be about something. I haven't always been Zwick's biggest fan, but he did a nice job with this film, one which is further elevated by strong central performances.

Despite 2006 being the year The Departed came out, Leonardo DiCaprio got his Oscar nomination that year for this movie, playing Danny Archer, a native slugger who gets caught up in the war while trying to help a fisherman named Solomon Vandy get his family back in return for a gigantic diamond he found and buried. DiCaprio is pretty great in this movie, intense and not entirely noble, but still a relatively good man at heart. He puts on a strong South African-or-thereabouts accent, and while I can't really say exactly how accurate it is, it sounds convincing and the general response from actual Africans is pretty positive. Solomon is played by Djimon Hounsou, whose name isn't as big as it is hard to pronounce, and he's also pretty great, getting award consideration himself. Jennifer Connelly is also good as an American journalist who wants the real blood diamond story and helps Danny in return for information, of course getting close to him in the process.

A lot of the plot and general action aren't particularly exceptional or original, but the casting and often brutal situations make it a more compelling movie than it could have been. The real African issues like the diamonds, corrupt governments, and child soldiers also make the whole thing seem more important and authentic, and add weight to the drama behind the shoot outs and explosions. It could be considered exploitative to use these topics to sell what might otherwise be a normal thriller, but I'd say it's better for more people to know about these things than to make sure the source of the information is 100% pure. And besides, it's a pretty darn good thriller.

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