Wednesday, January 17, 2007


BLOOD DIAMOND (adventure thriller)
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly and Arnold Vosloo
Director: Edward Zwick
Time: 142 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
DiCaprio & Hounsou
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? “Blood Diamond” is a highly effective pairing of Hollywood heart-throb Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou in a gripping adventure set in the 1999 bloodbath of Sierra Leone. Throw in the Oscar-winning Jennifer Connelly, a frantic search for a big pink diamond and a missing family – and we have a pot-boiler with disturbing political and sociological insights. The one problem audiences may have with this effort by director Edward Zwick is its pacing which tends to drag a bit...

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Hounsou is Solomon Vandy, a native Sierra Leone fisherman who has high hopes for his country and his family. He dreams of his country becoming a paradise when peace returns, and of his son, Dia (Kagiso Kuypers), becoming a doctor when he grows up. His dreams are shattered when rebels raid his village, murdering women and children and cutting off the men's arms, sending his family into hiding. Solomon is captured and forced to work in a diamond mine that helps to finance the war chest of the rebels.
DiCaprio is Danny Archer, a South African mercenary who smuggles weapons and diamonds in and out of Africa for a living. His dream: to make enough money so that he can get out of the political mess that is Africa. Danny meets Solomon in the government jail one day – and that is when he learns that the lanky fisherman has found and hidden a huge diamond somewhere in the jungle near his village. Danny sees that gem as a ticket out of his predicament. The only problem is that he has to persuade Solomon that it is also his ticket in his quest to search for his family.
Connelly is Maddy Bowen, an American journalist covering the civil unrest in Sierra Leone. Her dream is to write that big expose on the illegal trade in 'conflict diamonds' – the stones smuggled out of war-torn areas and laundered through big Western companies. As a journalist, she has access to transportation and clearance into refugee camps where Solomon's family may have been kept. Also, Maddy sees Danny as her ticket to fame – her source to names and evidences for her expose.
Soon the three find themselves heading back into the political turmoil to look for the diamond. And as in all incidents of human quests and greed, there is an enormous price to pay...

HIGHLIGHTS & LOWLIGHTS: As soon as the opening introduction is over, director Zwick and scripter Charles Leavitt zero in on the carnage – highlighting such atrocities as rebels asking their captives “Long sleeve or short sleeve” before chopping off their right hands so that they cannot vote. There is also a subplot on Solomon's son who is captured and turned into a child soldier by the rebels. He is indoctrinated to kill as casually as waving 'hello', just to get the 'respect' of the adults.
Filmed entirely in Africa, the movie reminds us of “Hotel Rwanda” where families are torn apart and made to fight against their own clan. Cinematography (by Eduardo Serra) is captivating, with sweeping vistas of lush hills and jungles – as well as nail-biting car chases and shootouts. While these can be absorbing, the pacing could have been tightened up a bit, reducing the 145-minute footage to a crisp 120, without affecting the narrative.
As expected, DiCaprio is magnificent as Danny, providing him the requisite roguish charm and enigma we would imagine of a 'soldier of fortune'. Hounsou gets our sympathy as the distraught father and as the movie's moral centre, while Connelly wins us over as the gutsy journo who thrives in crisis situations.

THE LOWDOWN: And then there is the insight into 'conflict diamonds' which this movie seems to be concerned about. Who knows, after watching "Blood Diamond", many of us may not be able to look at a gem as a 'sentimental gift' again.


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