Directed by: Edward Zwick
Written by:Charles Leavitt
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers, Arnold Vosloo
Released: January 4, 2007
Grade: A

Blood Diamond is a Hollywood-style action flick set against the backdrop of a very serious subject matter.  This may sound like a contradiction but the film’s method is effective.  I enjoyed the heart-pumping adventure scenes whilst also learning much about an issue I didn’t previously know about.

A “blood diamond” is one which has been illegally smuggled out of a country at war.  They are sold to foreigners and the proceeds used to pay for weapons (which only add to the war’s ferocity).  Human rights organisations have tried to ban such diamonds but it’s been very difficult given the cunning methods used by those involved.

The African country of Sierra Leone was at civil war throughout the 1990s.  To fund the war, militia were exporting a glut of blood diamonds.  It is here where director Ed Zwick’s film is set.  Writer Charles Leavitt’s story is one of fiction but it highlights the many real problems that the people of Sierra Leone faced during this unstable time.

Danny Archer (DiCaprio) is a Zimbabwean diamond smuggler working in Sierra Leone.  Whilst spending a brief period of time in prison, Archer meets a fisherman named Solomon Vandy (Hounsou) who has found an elusive pink diamond (thought to be “priceless”).  Vandy cleverly buried the diamond before he was captured but it’s going to be a hazardous journey to get past the armed fighters and return to its location.

Archer knows this is the opportunity of a lifetime.  He must have that diamond.  The problem is that Vandy has no intention of sharing it with him.  Things change when Vandy is released from prison and cannot find his wife and two children.  Overcome with worry and grief, he thinks they have been taken to a refugee camp.  Archer promises to use his contacts to find Vandy’s family if, in return, he agrees to split the proceeds from the sale of the diamond 50-50.  An uneasy partnership has been formed.

Complicating the situation is the arrival of Maddy Bowen (Connolly), an American journalist looking to write an exclusive on the diamond smuggling industry.  Archer senses that her journalistic connections will be needed and so gives her tit-bits of insider information to feed her story.

We are now in a position where Archer, Vandy and Bowen are working together but will different objectives.  Archer wants wealth and the freedom to escape this war-torn country.  Vandy wants his family and the chance to give them a better life.  Bowen wants fame and the power to make people stand up and listen.  Will they betray each other to achieve their goals?  The question will be asked.

I’ve said this before but Leonardo DiCaprio is the actor of my generation.  No role is too difficult and the broadness of his resume is a testament to that fact.  DiCaprio gives an incredibly passionate performance in Blood Diamond and his South African accent is remarkably precise.  Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly are also terrific.  It may feel clichéd at times (thanks to the endless number of close shaves) but they make the story and its characters believable.  You will understand what drives them.

Given the difficulty, the movie was not able to shot in Sierra Leone.  Most scenes were filmed in South Africa and Mozambique.  The beauty of the undulating landscape has been captured by Portuguese cinematographer Eduardo Serra (Girl With Peal Earring).  It’s backed by a dominant music score from James Newton Howard (The Village).  It all adds up to a film that you have to see on a big screen (or at the very least with a home surround sound system).