Blood Diamond

5 Mar


Released in 2006, Blood Diamond tells the story of several different people trying to get their hands on a valuable diamond during the Sierra Leone civil war.

In the opening scene we’re treated to Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) talking to his son, Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) about the importance of going to school. We get an early glimpse of how important they are to each other and what a good relationship they have. They’re a lovely happy family. It’s a classic relationship establishing opener, and you get the sense that things might be about to take a turn for the worse for the family.

So it proves. In the early minutes of the film, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a group of rebels, burst onto the scene and start gunning down innocent civilians. Men, women and children are killed in a ruthless attack. We see plenty of blood exiting bodies and splattering across walls, and it doesn’t make for pleasant viewing. As set-ups go, it’s magnificent. We know immediately what we’re dealing with now with the RUF. Basically, they’re a bad bunch. You’re not going to like them. Boo, hiss etc.

Then we get an introduction to the intimidating, downright evil Captain Poison (David Harewood), ruthless leader of the RUF. Rather than mutilate Vandy, he makes a decision to keep him as a worker. Poor old Solomon is to be separated from his family and start mining for diamonds, the mining and selling of which make some other people very rich and help fund the raging civil war.

Whilst doing this, Solomon happens upon a large diamond that is sure to be of incredibly high value. Risking his life, he decides to bury it, and so the story really gets underway.

In a chance encounter, diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) learns of Solomon’s hidden diamond and spots a chance to strike a deal that might help him leave Africa altogether. He knows that Solomon is separated from his family and offers a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of deal. If Vandy leads Archer to the diamond, Archer will lead Archer to his family.

In a film chock-full of epic scenes rammed with explosions and gun fire, it is of enormous credit to the actors that their performances bring real heart and emotion to the forefront. DiCaprio, sporting an impressive accent that only occasionally veers into Alan Partridge-esque ‘Sith Ifrican’ territory, is the undoubted star of the piece. Over the two hours and 20 minutes that the film runs for, you’ll vary several times from finding his character detestable, to willing him to succeed. You see, on the face of it Danny Archer isn’t a likeable bloke. He is, as mentioned earlier, a diamond smuggler. He might not want to accept it, but what he does plays a huge part in contributing to the troubles of Sierra Leone.


In less capable hands, Archer could have been a forgettable character. However, DiCaprio imbues in him a sense of personal conflict that is impressive to see on screen. He might not have been a good man throughout his life, but thanks to DiCaprio you sense that Danny Archer has a good heart. DiCaprio manages to hide it below the surface though, only occasionally hinting at it; You always feel that Archer is a man primarily looking out for himself.

Whilst DiCaprio puts in the star-turn, it is Djimon Honsou who adds the real heart to the story and anchors the whole thing. There’s little subtlety to his performance. As a man desperately trying to find his family, and in the process learning of some their unpleasant experiences in his absence, he is really allowed to lose himself on screen. There is an understandable anger in him, for the most part simmering below the surface. When he does let go, however, he’ll break your heart. He shouts and he screams and he is so jam-packed with emotion you wonder how he manages to contain it so well for the most part.

Jennifer Connelly adds a good performance as journalist Maddy Bowen. She befriends Archer and is a fantastic device for helping accentuate the conflict within him; does he want to do good or does he want to look out for himself? They share a lot of screen time and their chemistry together is excellent.

With these three performances plus a handful of excellent supporting roles played by perfectly cast performers, it’s hard to knock any of the acting.

Director Edward Zwick treats us to some impressive shots of the landscape, adding a beauty to the film that is completely juxtaposed with the bleakness of the story. He coaxes excellent performances from all of the lead roles and the scenes of war are both horrific and realistic.

Where Blood Diamond does fall down a little is that, for all the quality in the direction, it occasionally feels a little too Hollywood. The issues at the centre of the film are very real. The civil war raged in Sierra Leone between 1996-2001, and ‘blood diamonds’ are a serious problem. At times, there are elements of the story that allow you to forget that . That said, you do get snapped back to ‘reality’ when you see the training of child soldiers on screen.

Blood Diamond is a film I enjoyed a lot, and one that largely impressed me. I’d argue it could have lost maybe ten minutes off it’s run-time but that’s only a minor quibble. When it’s at its best it soars thanks to some excellent and moving lead performances. At it’s base-level it deals with some incredibly horrific real-world issues; At it’s heart is a story of hope, love and, to a degree, redemption.



One Response to “Blood Diamond”

  1. 1894tony March 8, 2013 at 05:51 #

    enjoyed that review, and it pretty much echoes my thoughts on the film, although you have articulated it much better than me

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