A review of “Blood Diamond” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for extreme violence and language

Run Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

 

 

Leonardo DiCaprio finally grows up and gives the performance he was destined for.

As ex-mercenary Danny Archer DiCaprio captures the essence of a conflicted smuggler from Zimbabwe (nee Rhodesia) making a living running stolen diamonds from Sierra Leone to Liberia. Archer chances upon the mention of a rare pink diamond that has been hidden in the mountains (during Sierra Leone’s turbulent 1999 civil war) and determines to locate it and get the hell out of Dodge.

Which sets him on an unlikely collision course with Mende tribesman Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a proud husband and father who has been torn from his family to slave in the diamond fields. Vandy unexpectedly discovers the rare pink and hides it before he is summarily dispatched, hoping to later retrieve it and re-connect with his family.

Enter the third member of the studied triangle -- foxy American journalist cum action junkie Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) who doggedly pesters Archer for a story about the truth behind conflict diamonds, thus exposing the corruption of European diamond industry leaders who choose the bottom line over humanity.

The trio is unusually co-dependent; Maddy needs a story yet yearns to comfort the emotionally vulnerable Archer, Archer wants to recover the valuable diamond to salvage his life and his sanity and Vandy desperately needs the stone as a means to recover his son, who has been forced into the role of child-soldier by rebel forces.

There’s a lot to like about director Edward Zwick’s hard-line investigation on principle and profit and its all there for taking: attacks of conscience, relentless action and a teary finale. Highly-charged politics are funneled into personal exploits crafted for maximum entertainment. But its message – stem the flow of conflict diamonds -- is too preachy, brazenly dragging its significance over the finish line with the utmost melodrama.

The brutality is rough, too much of it involving innocent women and children. Battle sequences are extreme but impressive.

DiCaprio is the quintessential charming rogue, delivering the face, the body and the sexy dark side with movie-star flash. He works the triangle with ease, male-bonding with Vandy and reluctantly love-connecting with Maddy. Hounsou is excellent, exuding a fierce intensity and cultural pride.

A solid effort.