Sunday, January 14, 2007

BLOOD DIAMOND succeeds despite the sentiment

That's a polite way of putting it, yea. Mum was raped and shot and uh... Dad was decapitated and hung from a hook in the barn. I was nine... boo-hoo right?From the director of THE LAST SAMURAI and the writer of K-PAX....! Not a great pedigree, but BLOOD DIAMOND works as a tolerably interesting thriller with strong performances, albeit overlaid with an annoying layer of liberal sentiment. Not that I'm against liberal sentiment: naturally, we should not buy diamonds that are used to finance civil wars. But as a reasonably well-informed adult I do not need Edward Zwick to tell me this. I especially don't need him to tell me this in such a heavy-handed manner, with a politican literally lecturing me from a podium.

The good news is that BLOOD DIAMOND succeeds as a decent thriller despite its clumsy attempt at agit-prop. It's fundamentally a chase story. Djimon Hounsou is outstanding in his portrayal of an African man who finds an enormous rough diamond of incalculable value. He wants to use it to leverage a better life in Europe with his family. Meanwhile, his young son has been captured by the rebel army and is being trained as a child soldier. This is by far, the most interesting and scary strand of the movie. Hounsou's character forms a sort of devil's pact with a white Zimbabwean mercenary played by Leonardo di Caprio. Caprio's character is an ultra-realist to the point of cruel cynicism. He doesn't give a rats ass about anyone, including Hounsou's character's family, but also wants to use the diamond as an exit route from Africa. To that end, he's willing to help the African. The third player is an idealistic American journalist played by Jennifer Connelly. She'll help out Hounsou and play along with di Caprio in exchange for a real story of corruption in a diamond company that is clearly meant to approximate De Beers.

I love the movie's exploration of the harsh reality of life in war-torn Africa. And I love that despite it's good intentions it still has a glossy, fast-paced Hollywood feel. I also think all three lead performances are strong, and from my limited experience, find Leonardo di Caprio's accent convincing. (He sounds just like the cricketer, Kevin Pietersen!) So it gets a marginal thumbs-up. The big minus point is that for a movie that claims to be harsh and realistic it has as saccharine an ending as you could want, reminiscent of the fairy-tale ending from THE CONSTANT GARDENER.

BLOOD DIAMOND is already on release in the US, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Brazil and Taiwan. It opens in Hong Kong on the 18th and Belgium, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Estonia, Iceland, Italy, Norway and the UK on the 26th. It opens in France on the 31st, Hungary on Feb 1st, and in Finland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey on the 9th. It opens in Argentina on Feb 15th and in Japan on March 31st.


  1. i was pleased, though it was sad, it was also pretty eye-opening. i sort of didn't like leo's accent.

  2. But saying you don't like the accent is different from saying Leo doesn't do it well...