Blood Diamond is a story about an Anglo (as in Anglo-African) diamond mercenary in Sierra Leone and his quest for a fabled diamond discovered by Solomon Vandy, a humble fisherman whose family was torn apart and conscripted into forced labor in the diamond mines for the Revolutionary United Front. It’s a struggle of wills between Leonardo who only wants the diamond and Solomon who only wants to be reunited with his family and son (taken into the rebel ranks as a child killer).
The combat scenes of this film are breathtakingly dynamic yet strangely serene. Leonardo has a masterful turn as a disillusioned ex-soldier whose seen the underbelly of humanity. An African yet a perpetual stranger on the continent who has given up on trying to understand the travails of the continent and simply accepts Africa and loves it for what it is.
Jennifer Connelly is the journalist trying to make a difference in 3000 words or less who struggles to put things in black or white when confronted by a character like Leonardo. The love between Jennifer and Leonardo is restrained and unfulfilled.
It is a by all means a great movie but falls into the various traps that a film striving to be great fall into. Like all films that use a war-torn African country as a back drop, the plot gets drowned in the complexity of the reality presented by Africa and its many internal conflicts. You cannot distill that into a backdrop without it overpowering what is at heart a very simple plot.
Certain elements are also forced like the rebels getting high while listening to rap music and watching bling bling music videos. In fact, let’s list it out all the themes and undercurrents:
- Multi-national diamond cartel greed
- Anglo-Africans and their place in African society
- Western journalists and their quest to change the world
- How the luxuries of Western countries destroy developing nations
- African civil wars and brutality
- White/Black unity and brotherhood
- The importance of family
Another aspect of the film that made me pause was Leonardo speaking Afrikaans or whatever it is Anglo-Africans from Rhodesia speak. I have no point of reference as to what constitutes an authentic accent. I kind of get the feeling he’s doing a good job being Leonardo but I’ll never have a definitive take on that.
It’s a decent script with extremely talented actors and in the end that’s why it’ll never be great film. Each of the actors can carry the film in flashes of brilliant acting but you really can’t expect them to hold a sprawling story together.
There’s a good reason why films like “No Country for Old Men” are instant classics. They blur the lines of good and bad, shock you with impending violence that seem random and brutal but tied together in a grand scheme that slowly sets in as the film unfolds. More importantly, there is no judgment, no right, no wrong. Just you.
In that sense Blood Diamond shoots too straight. The lines are too clearly delineated, you aren’t left with much to mull over.