Eclectic Reviews: Blood Diamond



Djimon Hounsou, who has an impressive life story himself, offers an intense performance of Solomon Vandy, a man separated from his family when the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) invades his village in Sierra Leone, killing women and children, and taking many young boys captive to serve as RUF soldiers (which has actually happened. It is estimated that some 120,000 children are currently involved in armed conflicts across Africa). Among the boys taken is Vandy's son Dia.

Solomon is put to work by the RUF, standing knee-high in a river, sifting through silt, panning for diamonds, which are traded for arms. A fellow worker is shot immediately by the boss when he is seen taking a small diamond from the pan and placing it in his mouth. Shortly after, Solomon finds a rather large diamond and, realizing that a diamond of such value could change his life and save his family, he carefully places it between his toes to hold beneath the water.

He is caught trying to bury the diamond moments later, but a sudden military attack on that particular RUF diamond operation buys him some time to run and bury the diamond a short distance away. Moments later he is captured and jailed by the government forces along with many RUF soldiers.

Leonardo DiCaprio does great job as Danny Archer, a former mercenary from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) who served in the 32 Battalion of the South African Defence Force. He is now a diamond smuggler who works for his former commander, Colonel Koetzee, played by Arnold Vosloo. Having been caught smuggling diamonds into Liberia, Archer is arrested and placed in jail. There he hears Solomon and his RUF leader, who had seen him take the diamond, shouting about the diamond which Solomon denies knowledge of. Archer's interest is piqued and upon his release he arranges the release of Vandy, and meets with him to learn more about the diamond.

Vandy at first resists, but realizing that Archer may be his best chance at seeing his family, and getting his son back, agrees to take him to the diamond.

With the help of journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) they locate Vandy's family, but not his son. Soon they realize that the boy may have been taken to fight with the RUF

Archer and Vandy pilfer some supplies from Koetzee's installation, and head back to locate the diamond. They stumble upon an RUF outpost and Vandy spots his son. Dia, brainwashed by his captors, seems to not recognize his father. Vandy creates a scene and Archer takes cover in the jungle, escaping detection as the leader, Vandy's nemesis from his original capture, enters the scene. Vandy is tied up and faces certain death, but Archer had previously contacted Koetzee to arrange an attack, which quickly ensues.

An armed helecopter flies over the outpost, guns blaring, as Archer races in to rescue Vandy and his son. They escape, and continue on to locate the diamond.

Finally the diamond is retrieved, and after a struggle in which Koetzee attempts to take the diamond, the three make their way to an area where Archer has arranged a plane to pick them up. Archer is wounded along the way, and sacrifices himself to help Vandy and his son escape toward the air strip.

Archer also contacts Bowen, with whom he had developed some romantic interest, and asks her to do one final favor for him. The emotions play out as she realizes that he is giving up, not seeking assistance and ready to die. But she agrees to assist Vandy in selling his diamond to the company she will ultimately expose for supporting Conflict or "Blood" Diamond operations in Africa.

The intensity of Blood Diamond cannot be denied. The action is incredible. Great cinematography, great effects, and great acting, especially by Hounsou, who began his acting career on episodes of Beverly Hills 90210, and went on to appear in films like Amistad, Deep Rising, Gladiator, and many others, more recently Constantine and Eragon. He has also made television appearances in episodes of ER and Alias. An actor to watch for.

I've never been a real DiCaprio fan, but after this I think I'll have to give him a second chance. He was right for this roll. A great performance, and I have to give him credit for the accents he had to learn in order to play his part.

Blood Diamond, while dramatically entertaining and full of action, is also an eye-opener, raising awareness of the uprising that ocurred in Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002. Things shown in the film -- child soldiers, severing limbs and hands -- actually took place. Sad to see that our greed and desire for such a beautiful jewel can be the root of such evil and devastation.