Wednesday, February 07, 2007


RUNTIME: 143 min.
RATING: ****

Africa is big on Hollywood’s list isn’t it? Whatever be the reasons, America’s biggest export has taken its responsibility to bring the plight of the Dark Continent to the world.
This latest movie from Edward Zwick (GLORY, COURAGE UNDER FIRE, THE SEIGE, THE LAST SAMURAI) stands right in line of previous ventures like HOTEL RWANDA, THE INTERPRETER, THE CONSTANT GARDNER, BEYOND BORDERS and a host of others where Africa has been smack in the middle of the spotlight.
The topic here is that of conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds because these diamonds have blood of innocent people on them. That is the message here. The diamonds that most of you are wearing on your fingers or as jewellery could have come right from Sierra Leone, with innocent blood on them.
Leonardo Di Caprio is Danny Archer, a former mercenary and now a diamond smuggler from erstwhile Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He is a man of low morality who smuggles diamond from the warlords in Sierra Leone and smuggles them to neighboring Liberia. When he comes to know that Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou, GLADIATOR, CONSTANTINE, THE ISLAND) has hidden a huge piece of the stone somewhere, he gets behind him to come in possession of it. But Solomon Vandy is a victim of the civil war, his family separated from him. What ensues is a somewhat complex moral tale that also involves American journalist Mandy Moore (Jennifer Connelly).
They say good intentions aren’t everything but you need to sow good intentions so that you could have good actions. Well it could not be truer in case of BLOOD DIAMOND. It is in more ways than one typical of Zwick’s movies so far. I for one have been a huge fan of him. Zwick’s movies always seem to tell something, they always have a message in them. And I love his style in that he packages his message in a very good “genre” movie. COURAGE UNDER FIRE was a movie in the RASHOMON mould but was a nice comment on heroism in war and in a larger context, pragmatism as an eternal truth. THE SEIGE was a fantastic comment on terrorism, but was also a good thriller. GLORY anyways is one of the most underrated movies of all time, arguably his greatest movie.
BLOOD DIAMOND sure has good intentions and follows it up with great execution for most part of it.
But the way it is, BLOOD DIAMOND is still one of the best movies of the years. The plot is dense, in fact it demands its viewers’’ complete attention for the first hour or so. Leonardo Di Caprio is nothing short of fantastic and has followed his incredible turn in Martin Scorsese’s THE DEPARTED with an absolute winner. It is an understated performance, a brilliant portrayal of a person of complex integrity. He just justifies himself by saying-“This is Africa”. And that brings a devastating sense of fatalism to the proceedings. That’s where the movie drives home its point exceedingly well. You cannot help but think about the people there and life in that part of the world. We as people have been so incredibly fortunate with life when there are other people in some parts of the world who aren’t half as fortunate. The way innocent children are turned to killers is devastating. You would have read it in books and newspapers, you sure would have seen it on CNN but it is something else here. There’s gritty realism on display here, something which only HOTEL RWANDA could capture among all the movies on Africa. Yeah, there are characters with clich├ęd undertones, especially that of Captain Poison (David Harewood, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE), it still doesn’t in any way the movie’s strength. Djimon Hounsou is fantastic, but he tends to get a bit loud in places. Nevertheless, he’s absolutely powerful in places. Jennifer Connelly is her usual self, immediately letting us connect to a character. She just might be one of the more underappreciated actresses of our generation. BLOOD DIAMOND is as much a story of the realities of our times as it is a story of redemption, much like Zwick’s previous effort THE LAST SAMURAI. For most of its part, it really threads the complex morality of Danny fantastically well and ends it up quite satisfactorily as well.
But it falters when it tries to be too much. On one end it tells the plight of Africa where it stays at its absolute best. But once it starts concentrating on the romantic angle between Danny and Mandy it starts feeling long.
There was absolutely no need for them to have a relation. And when it tries to be a travel movie with Danny and Solomon go in search of the stone, it really loses its steam. There are a couple of useless sequences of Danny threatening Solomon that could have been altogether avoided, when these sequences have nothing new to tell. The movie also tends to over do its message thing. There’s an absolute stinker of a scene, where an old man they meet just blurts out for no reason-“Good that we don’t have oil”. It just sticks out and overindulgences like that are typical of Zwick. A little bit of editing on those ends could have made BLOOD DIAMOND into an absolute gem.
In many ways, Zwick’s BLOOD DIAMOND is a throwback to many message movies of the past where the prime characters form a triangle, one a cynic of questionable morality, one an idealist and the third a victim. Three combined form a classic combination for a message movie. Only that this one doesn’t gel its elements that well. At 143 minutes, it sure feels long in places. Nevertheless, it is one of 2006’s most important and best offerings, a movie well made and a message delivered really well.

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