I once worked with an African who shared with me some of Africa’s unique culture. He has probably told me a lot more than I wished to know such as people getting shot inside their cars at the traffic lights. Movies portray a slice of reality and I know very little about Africa besides the seemingly endless civil wars between warlords and tons of humanitarian aid opportunities (AIDS, child rapes, refugees, etc.). As I typed this review, Somalia declares state of emergency for 3 months.
The story of “Blood Diamond” is set in 1990s Sierra Leone when diamonds had to be smuggled out of this conflict zone and into neighbouring countries in order to be sold to the rest of the world (part of a treaty not to buy diamonds from conflict zones). The money from the diamond sales in turn funded the military in Sierra Leone.
Inside a prison, an ex-mercenary from Zimbabwe, Danny Archer (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), met with a Mende fisherman Solomon Vandy (played by Djimon Hounsou). Their paths intertwined and from then on, shared the same quest of recovering a rare pink diamond.
“Blood Diamond” is Leonardo DiCaprio’s second movie to be nominated for this coming Oscar (first one being “The Departed”). His performance is outstanding in “Blood Diamond”. His character played a wide range of emotions from a risk taker and an ex-mercenary motivated by greed to displaying his good nature when situations called for and to someone vulnerable recalling his painful childhood stories (nearly got me shed a tear in that scene). Besides the many facets of emotions, Leonardo switched different accents according to the plot. I enjoyed every moment he acted.
What makes this movie so enjoyable to watch is that the actors are of the same calibre. Jennifer Connelly – Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress – who played a journalist paired up well with Leonardo. The African actor Djimon Hounsou (who won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in “Blood Diamond”) surprised me the most. He sweat and he teared and he played well as a father who would stop at nothing to be united with his family.
Combine all these outstanding performance and a simple yet tight plot with some of the inspiring scenery that can only come from Africa (the rather backward cities contrast with the beautiful jungle and the sea-side shots) is a 140 minutes long movie that does not have a dull moment.
“Blood Diamond” does come with a violence rating. Some of the scenes can be disturbing especially the opening scene when a village of people were massacred by the rebels. The violence did not stop there and continued as the plot unfold. I think towards the end, I was quite used to it and did not cringe that much. Also, seeing how children being brainwashed to learn how to fight with guns can be disturbing to some as well. I don’t think it is an exaggeration but rather a highlight of reality in some regions of Africa.
Overall, I enjoyed “Blood Diamond” and hope that Leonardo DiCaprio will bag the Oscar this year. And by the way, I don’t think I will see diamonds the same way as before.