As a movie director, Edward Zwick has always had a tendency of choosing movie plots with important subject matter, but never doing the importance of these subjects any justice. When he isn't making war films (like his best work to date, 'Glory'), he is making films centered around the themes and settings of wars (WW1 in 'Legends of the fall', the Gulf war in 'Courage under fire', the American civil war in 'The last Samurai'). 'Blood diamonds' is no different; it is set in the late 90's during the bludgeoning civil war of Sierra Leone and the alarming rate with which militants were armed, usually by the sale of what is referred to as conflict diamonds – diamonds that are mined in war zones and sold, usually clandestinely, to finance an army's war efforts, in this case the rebel soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
In the film, three people are caught in this rampage – fisherman Solomon Vendy (Djimon Hounsou) whose village is brutalized at the start of the film by the RUF and who is taken prisoner to work in the diamond mines, away from his refugee family. Once at the mine, Solomon unearths an enormous diamond which he hides, before being arrested by invading government troops. Sent to prison, he catches the curiosity of opportunistic 'Rhodesian' diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio, sporting a convincing South African accent). Promising to help Solomon find his missing family in exchange for the massive diamond, Danny enlists American reporter Maddy ((Jennifer Connelly), who he baits with the lure of an exclusive behind the scenes, tell-all revelation about how the diamond industry functions to the detriment of an entire continent.
As Archer, DiCaprio is in splendid form, with his youthful exuberance working in favour of his insistent demeanor, more than it did in the underwhelming 'Departed'. His verbal dexterity in speaking South African English is in clear evidence throughout the film and anyone needing proof of this should look no further than a scene involving his dialogue with native South African actor Arnold Vosloo, here playing an army general who orders the various military hits against the RUF. But for all his spoken authenticity, his character is underwritten and is little more than a version of a similar role he played in Danny Boyle's 'Beach'. It is also awkward the way Archer trades his prospective scheming to turn Good Samaritan by the third act, which serves as a reminder to us that 'Blood Diamond' is nothing more than a popcorn movie disguising itself as serious drama trying to feel more important than it really is.
Despite all of this, Zwick's films are usually always very watch-able either because of there great cinematography, crisp direction or fast moving action thrills, never their thoughtfulness, but even by his own standards, 'Blood diamond' is a confused offering because it wants to engage more as a drama than as an action film. It douses in heavy sentimentality in the final moments, setting itself for a rousing, applauding end. Its five Oscar nominations (including those for both the male actors) might just make you consider purchasing that ticket, but ask yourself at the end whether you were entertained more than you were convinced? You don't need a Hollywood action film to tell you about the evils of greed and exploitation, just a little bit of awareness and curiosity. - Faizan Rashid