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January 6, 2007

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Movie Review – Blood Diamond (2006)

by RISHI AGRAWAL

In Sierra Leone in the mid-90s, a diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) learns that a native named Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) has found (and hidden) an enormous diamond that could be worth millions. Getting help from a reporter named Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), Archer agrees to help Vandy reunite with his family. Archer will also help recover the diamond and negotiate its sale. In exchange, Vandy will split his profits with Archer. Edward Zwick directs.

A lot of people will make the easy comparison here with Hotel Rwanda, as the background of the movie concerns the rebel forces trying to overthrow the government. In trying to seize control, they slaughter the population along the way. However, I think the violence, though an integral part of the movie, is not necessarily the point of the film. I am not saying that the violence was the point of Hotel Rwanda either, but it seemed somewhat more central there. In Blood Diamond, the violence, though shocking, does not overtake the viewer as much, because the population that was being slaughtered had a large degree of anonymity. Perhaps that is why the violence did not seem as real, because the victims weren’t humanized as much. And maybe that’s a flaw in Blood Diamond, but I think the film still captured the randomness and senselessness of the whole situation.

The utter randomness of death in this movie probably didn’t touch the viewers as much as it could have. Despite their faults, I still empathized with the main characters. And though there were some exciting action sequences, I never truly feared for the main characters’ lives because, well, the movie was obviously not over yet. As long as there was still plot to unravel, I knew that the main characters could not die. This made the last half hour of the movie especially interesting because the key points in the plot had played out, and general tension set in – there was no way to know what would happen next.

But there was still real tension in the movie between the characters. A lot of the tension truly centered on Archer. In the movie, Archer is a real bastard, so you never know how he is going to react to certain situations. And just when you think Archer has grown a heart, he does something to throw you for a loop. There was real tension here between Vandy and Archer. The disagreed over the best course of action frequently, as Vandy was motivated by the search for his family and Archer was motivated by greed. Also, we never really knew who was in control. Since Vandy was the only one who knew where the diamond was hidden, you would think he was holding all the cards. Unfortunately, Archer’s experience and expertise often trumped Vandy, leading to an interesting dynamic. To some degree there was also some tension between Archer and Bowen, though their relationship as reporter and subject were more interesting than the quasi-romantic relationship in the movie. Still, though this relationship did not add as much to the movie as it could have, it didn’t subtract anything either.

This is, of course, a “message” movie, talking about the evils of the diamond trade. But that’s okay. Occasionally, movies should be allowed to have an agenda. This is a movie that, perhaps for an instance, makes people think twice about buying diamonds the same way that The Insider made people think twice about buying cigarettes. Perhaps, ultimately, the movie will not change anything, but that does not mean the message should be left unsaid.

3 1/2 stars


7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Laura
    Jan 7 2007

    Though I did like Blood Diamond, I do think that it was a little souped up to cleverly cloy the message. Being one to be inspired as a result of a movie, I think message movies are fantastic- I wish there were more.
    So I felt there could have been more depth written into the characters… and maybe more background on Maddy and Vandy- but in general it was an above average film.

  2. James
    Jan 8 2007

    My favorite part of the movie was when Bond tossed Blofeld into that vat of superheated mud in the cloning lab.

    Oh wait, that was “Diamonds Are Forever.” My bad.

  3. Jan 9 2007

    I don’t know if I agree that we needed more background on Bowen and Vandy. Bowen was underdeveloped, but she was also a peripheral character. I think the fault of the film was to make the character more central than she needed to be.

    As far as Vandy, I felt like we got plenty of background. He was a simple fisherman. What else do we need to know?

  4. James
    Jan 16 2007

    So this was an action-drama with a peripheral message or a message movie that had the occasional moment of action or thrilling escape? How does it compare to “The Last Samurai?”

  5. Jan 19 2007

    My instinct was that the filmmakers intended to emphasize the message of the movie. The movie begins with a scene emphasizing the harm of the diamond trade and ends with on-screen text reiterating this point.

    I personally liked it better than The Last Samurai. The Last Samurai is only three years old and I can barely remember anything about it. I have a feeling that Blood Diamond will stick with me for longer than that.

  6. Feb 1 2007

    As a South African my self, I thought the movie was GREAT,Leo sounded like us and acted like us and it was also a heart breaking movie. If you have ever lived in africa you would of enjoyed the movie more.

  7. Helen Chen
    May 8 2008

    This movie was a lot better than I expected. It didn’t last long in the theaters and didn’t win any awards. A lot of people(who’ve never even seen it!) said it was just another holly-wood action movie, but the message really sank, and the Danny Archer guy was really good it doing his role. I wished more people could’ve watched it.

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