Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Blood Diamond

I saw a really good movie Christmas night, Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly. It reminded me of two of my favorite movies, Killing Fields and Cry Freedom. In those movies, the story was told mostly through the eyes of the white outsider who befriends the oppressed native. It's not so much a criticism, but rather an observation. In many movies, it seems like that white role is added only to make the movie more palatable for a largely white audience. Of course, those two previous mentioned movies are based on real stories. This one is fictional but the problem of "conflict diamonds" is real.

From Wikipedia:

"A blood diamond (also called a conflict diamond or a war diamond) is a diamond mined in a war zone and sold, usually clandestinely, in order to finance an insurgent or invading army's war efforts." They have included Angola, Sierra Leone, The Ivory Coast and Liberia. International awareness has led to a reduction in the amount of conflict diamonds bought in the West, but they still exist and some have speculated that they have even had some part in funding of Al Qaeda.

DiCaprio is one of the best things about this film. His performance in this and Departed were outstanding. You see the arc of his character as he progresses from, what we assume, is a mercenary "make a buck" type to one who cares about the people affected by the sale of conflict diamonds. DiCaprio's maturation as an actor and the choices he has made in roles are admirable.

Hounsou, as always, is very good in his role. He's very passionate and believable as a father whose family has been torn apart by the rebels.

At times the Jennifer Connelly role (as an American journalist) seems superfluous. I suppose that you could justify it within the context of her role in exposing the diamond companies smuggling. But it sometimes seems to wander into the territory of being tacked on just for the sake of having a potential love interest. Her performance is fine and as always she looks stunning. I just wonder if you could have propelled the story without her.

The movie has a few moments of forced exposition of plot and message. Explanatory lines frequently come up inorganically. Movies about some of these important subjects have a tendency to do that because they assume, rightly so, that a large part of the audience does not know a lot about the subject. Of course, not all recent movies do that. For example, Syriana.

I liked the movie even if it did seem Hollywoody at times. But it didn't shy away from the gruesomeness of the violence or how shocking the behavior of child soldiers was. Also, it didn't try to paint just one group as the bad guys. Really everyone (including us) are complicit: governments, the factions in Africa, consumers, the media. I recommend this film. Grade: B+


james said...

Just saw this flick last night and I liked it as well. Part of it is that I live in Africa for a time and saw much suffering first hand.

Even though (as you say) it was a bit Hollywoody it is a great movie to get people to pay attention to the consequences of their consuming.

That is one of the reasons that my wife has a fake diamond ring.

Laura said...

I personally don't like diamonds, which makes me a good catch I guess. Part of the reason is that I am aware of the problem of conflict diamonds. I do want to see this movie, I'll have to put it on our list...