July 2, 2014

Movie: Blood Diamond (2006)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:58 pm

imagesThis movie feels part like an offbeat movie and part like the usual Hollywood potboiler and seems unable to make up its mind as to which one specifically it wants to be.


The story is focused in Sierra Leone in a particularly war torn period and portrays the uncertain and unstable conditions of life for the poor people of the place.


The main character in the story is about Solomon Vandy (brilliantly played by Djimon Honsou) who is a loving father of a boy and a girl, and who wants them to have opportunities greater than him through studies. Though Djimon has done bit roles including in that Russell Crowe starrer the Gladiator, this is perhaps the biggest role he had landed until then and he makes good use of the opportunity. His terror through the various situations and his anxiety about his family, all sound very real.


His idyllic but poor existence is rudely shattered when the RUF group invades his village of Shenge and captures him, putting him to work in the mines. He is separated from his family too, and does not know where they are, how they are and whether they are even alive.


He is treated as a bonded labour, trowelling for diamonds in a river – used to fund the war efforts and hence the title – when he comes across a big diamond of a rare pink hue. At that very moment, the rebels are distracted by gunfire and he hides it with his feet. Asking that he wants to pee, he goes and takes the diamond out and is seen by Captain Poison, his master; before the Captain can react, he is wounded by gunfire and Solomon just buries it in there.


He is arrested and thrown in jail, and is in the company of a wounded Captain Poison, who accuses him of hiding a large diamond. This is overheard by Danny Archer, played by Leonardo (more on him and his role later) before Captain Poison dies.


Danny Archer, a smuggler is in serious trouble because the diamonds he smuggled for a warlord were confiscated by police when he was arrested, and he sees a way to redeem himself by hunting for the diamond with Solomon. The rest of the story follows the breathtaking journey through danger into the civil war raging all around them, Solomon also motivated to find his family no matter what the cost.


The movie is also populated by Jennifer Connelly as Maddie Bowen, a journalist who covers civil wars and Africa.


Now back to Leonardo. This actor has taken a wide variety of roles and has been versatile in many of them and has also taken his share of classics (See the review of Romeo Plus Juliet elsewhere in this site.) Here too, he does a good job including his Rhodesian accent but it smells like blockbusters. His budding romance with Bowen, the ending, all of it seem very cinematic against Solomon’s role in the movie.


The scenes with Solomon are believable, especially where he realizes that his only chance of staying alive, let alone recover the diamond, is to team up with Danny. His confrontation with his son is very moving, before that scene, too, turns cinematic.


However, there are some nice touches, which elevate this movie to a higher plane than that of a typical Hollywood potboiler.  First, there is this sneaking suspicion as to what his intentions are. Like Solomon, we always are on the edge of certainty that he is trying to cheat Solomon out of the diamond, the only way Solomon can hope to live a decent life and recover his family. Even to a direct question from Maddy, Danny is evasive as to whether he will really do the right thing by Solomon. Nice.


Second, the romance between Maddie and Danny is understated rather than explicitly revealed. Nice.


Third, at various points, even though you are sure he is doing it for self-interest, you see Danny not only save Solomon but treat him like a friend.


But again, at the very end, you are left with the same impression that I mentioned in the beginning of this review. This movie is part Hollywood thriller and part a really honest look at the civil war and the diamonds that fund it, and does not do full justice to either.


There are really clever scenes and unusual touches, and therefore this gets a 6/10 from me.


–        – Krishna


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