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While diamonds are the obvious subject of Blood Diamond, they are also meant to be a symbol representing all of the coveted resources of Africa’s abundant fertility, raped by Western powers over the centuries. Yes, Blood Diamond is preachy, but it’s a sermon we need to hear.
Much has been written about the value of so-called “message movies” since the release of Blood Diamond. Some feel that films should carry the burden of explicit moral invectives while others want their entertainment unmolested and significance free. Blood Diamond is a symbiosis of the two opinions, a film with an ethical center that, for some overwhelms any sort of entertainment value.
Part encyclopedia and part U.N. report, Blood Diamond is certainly bellowing from atop a very large soapbox. And yes, it does, at times, sacrifice its worthy story and narrative velocity for spreadsheets and facts and figures. However, to relegate it to a simple “message movie” is to also miss out on an all-out action picture. Edward Zwick channels Phillip Noyce’s Clear and Present Danger in crafting scenes of anxiety-ridden peril. Not since the terrorist attack on the American SUVs in Noyce’s Tom Clancy adaptation have I seen such a bold sequence of imminent catastrophe staged in such a claustrophobic space.
The acting in this film is superb. Jennifer Connely, who is finally getting the sort of recognition every 30-something year old guy who fell in love with her in The Rocketeer knew she’s always deserved, is convincing as a sassy, ideological driven reporter on the edge of burnout. But the real credit goes to the film’s Oscar nominated actors. Djimon Hounsou is terrific as a fisherman thrust into a conflict beyond his comprehension. All radiant anguish, he discovers a colossal diamond only to be caught in a crossfire between vicious militias and a greedy smuggler. The greedy smuggler is Leonardo DiCaprio who has finally grown into a man. As with his character in The Departed, DiCaprio is self-assured and confident, easily carrying the film on his broad cinematic shoulders. His South African accent is unassailable as are his acting chops as a charismatic yet brutally unsympathetic diamond smuggler out to get his cut no matter who gets hurt in the process.
Blood Diamond is full of the sort of sweeping vistas and melodrama that Edward Zwick (Glory, Legends of the Fall, The Last Samurai) does so well. While not a great film, Blood Diamond is a very good one — equal parts history lesson, political diatribe and action blitz. And though it may preach to a fault, its story of an Africa riddled by civil war, genocide, the abduction of child soldiers and the consumption of indigenous resources is a story we all need to hear more, not less, of.
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