Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Money talks wherever you are, but never less loudly than in Africa. Wars? Insurgencies? “It’s all about who gets what,” Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) says.

There is a healthy streak of cynicism running through Blood Diamond. Archer has no illusions; he’s in it for the booty. A Rhodesian by birth - he won’t use the word Zimbabwe - who was orphaned at 12 when his parents were murdered on their farm, he moved to South Africa and became part of the mercenary force, fighting in Angola. Now he’s in Sierra Leone, smuggling diamonds. The year is 1999, at the height of the civil war.

Copy picture

One of the qualities of Charles Leavitt’s screenplay is that it sets up formulaic situations and then deftly dodges them, as if a straightforward narrative would be too smooth and false in such a combustible continent. As the plot progresses, Archer has to change direction, depending on circumstance and the whereabouts of the rebels, who use child soldiers as their front line killer squads. The anarchic violence that erupts with terrifying swiftness makes Mel Gibson’s Mayans in Apocalypto look civilized.

Two stories collide and eventually merge. First there is Archer, wheeling and dealing at the diamond face, and second there is Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounou), a simple fisherman, who becomes the victim of a raid on his village, where he is captured, with his 12-year-old son (Kagiso Kuypers). Sparing him the arbitrary limb amputation, he is put to work sifting for precious stones in the river, while his son is recruited as a child soldier. It is during his forced labour that he discovers a rough diamond, the size of a plover’s egg, which he manages to bury on the river bank.

Later, Archer and Vandy find themselves in prison and it is here that the story of the diamond comes to light. Archer is desperate to get his hands on it, realizing that on the European market it will be worth millions, and Vandy is desperate to find his family. After bribing the right people and escaping the jail, they set off in search of the buried treasure.

Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), an American journalist, tags along and you know what’s going to happen, but this adventure twists and turns in unexpected directions and the sentimental set ups – black/white buddy buddy; white/white kissy kissy – run contrary to Archer acerbic nature and director Edward Zwick’s ability to play the hand that he is given.

The action sequences and location cinematography are of the highest quality, as are the performances. DiCaprio is totally convincing as a man who lives on instinct and native guile. If his presence dominates the film that is because Archer demands it. Hounou carries a heavy emotional burden with exceptional versatility and skill, as the distraught father in a merciless and chaotic world, who endeavors to stay alive and not be cheated by the demons in white men. Connelly’s role is the closest to cliché, because foreign correspondents in movies are inevitably beautiful, smart and unattached. In terrible circumstances, in the heat of battle, Maddy still wants to do the right thing, which annoys Archer, because what is right in the galleries of hell? Connelly cannot compete with the boys, having fewer opportunities, but what she doesn’t do is flutter her eye lashes and play Geldhorn to DiCaprio’s Hemingway.

Marilyn sang Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend. Even someone as attuned to the iconic symbolism of The American Story, Maddy turns away. She uses other words: “Diamonds are death.”

Reviewed on: 25 Jan 2007
Share this with others on...
Blood Diamond packshot
Diamonds are a smuggler’s best friend during Sierra Leone’s vicious civil war.
Amazon link

Director: Edward Zwick

Writer: Charles Leavitt

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers, Arnold Vosloo, Antony Coleman, Benu Mabhena, Anointing Lukola, David Harewood, Basil Wallace, Jimi Mistry

Year: 2006

Runtime: 143 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database:

If you like this, try:

The Constant Gardener
Lord Of War