Apr 13, 2012

[Movies] Blood Diamond (2006)

I try to make a habit of watching all the movies that get nominated for Best Picture in terms of the Academy Awards as much as possible. However given recent changes that have increased the number of nominees beyond five, it has gotten a lot trickier to do just that.

So it was sort of funny how I finally ended up watching this particular movie by sheer chance since it happened to be playing on our bus home. And given we had been coming from Puerto Galera, the commute was more than sufficient to allow us to actually finish the movie.

And while this movie was never nominated for Best Picture, it did receive 5 other nominations, that sort of made it one of the more notable movies for that year. And of course it made me feel weird having not seen it and yet it was getting a fair amount of attention from the media.

Okay, maybe not that weird given I'm not exactly a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. It still surprises me to some extent whenever he gets nominated for this or that acting award since I don't exactly see just how brilliant he's supposed to be. And maybe this movie could have tried to change my mind.

"...could have..."

Blood Diamond is a 2006 political thriller / drama directed by Edward Zwick with a screenplay by Charles Leavitt. It had been nominated for several Academy Awards, namely Best Actor (DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Hounsou), Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.

The movie begins in Sierra Leone with one Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) raids his villages and captures him. Solomon is forced to work in a diamond mind in order to provide more diamonds to be sold to support their war effort - hence the term "conflict diamond". During his forced servitude, Solomon manages to find a large pink diamond and tries to hide it for himself. And before Captain Poison (David Harewood) can force him to admit to his crime and reveal the location of the diamond, the RUF camp is attacked by the Sierra Leonean Army and they are eventually captured in turn.

That brings us to Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a gunrunner who gets arrested for attempting to smuggle diamonds into Liberia. He's part of a larger smuggling ring that involves former military assets and major diamond company in the UK and thus will get into more trouble now that he's lost his diamonds. But by chance he ends up in the same prison as Solomon, and thus he tries to convince him to reveal the location of the diamond to him.

And while all this is going on, Captain Poison manages to take Solomon's son Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) and conscripts him as a soldier in his child army. Thus the movie unfolds as we follow Danny's effort to find a suitable diamond, Solomon's efforts to find the rest of his family and Dia's trials as he is indoctrinated and trained as a member of the RUF.

In terms of tone and perceived "weight" given the subject matter, the movie reminds me a lot of the intensity of films like Crash or the seriousness of the issues covered in The Constant Gardener. And that can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your preferences in movie. The point is, this is not the sort of movie you can just watch casually at the end of a stressful work day. It helps to be a bit more awake than that and prepared to pay attention in order to keep up with the nuances of the political situation involved.

Well, unless you're already well-versed with the situation in places like Sierra Leone between 1992-2002, then you probably won't need it. It's sort of the point of the movie after all to clearly illustrate the problem of conflict diamonds in places like Africa.

Now I do not accurately know what a South African accent may be or whatever else we should expect Rhodesians like Danny Archer should sound like. On my part, I was a tad weirded out by DiCaprio's accent throughout the movie not because of how it sounded but more because he had a tendency to shift around. And while that is to be expected in any movie where an actor has to put on an accent, if you can't manage it well you're better off without it. So sometimes he was somewhat British, then Australian and of course American. Blah.

Djimon Hounsou
Djimon Hounsou (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)
Djimon Hounsou was an excellent casting choice for this movie. While some could argue that he seems to have been typecast over the years in such strong, brooding, intense characters time and time again, there's no arguing that he does handle these things well. While it's a shame he didn't win any of the acting awards from the "bigger" award giving bodies, he did nab a few in other circuits. And he really makes this movie the powerful piece that it is given the depth of his story and the intensity of his emotions as conveyed through his performance.

At times the story is a bit tricky to follow given the shifting points of view and the decision to try to show both the macro piece in terms of the global conspiracy of sorts to purchase conflict diamonds as contrasted with the macro view of Dia being trained as a child soldier. It makes for a rather startling contrast that makes for good storytelling but can be dizzying if you're not paying attention.

Blood Diamond is certainly a movie with a message and one that it manages to tell in rather colorful and emotional terms. It deserves all the praise that it has received over the years but as is typical of critically-acclaimed films, it may not be for everyone. Still, it merits 4 scenes of conflict and violence across Sierra Leone out of a possible 5.

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