Blood Diamond offers enough overacting and a meandering plot to convince senior citizens that they are watching a “good movie.” For the rest of us however, the film suffers from a multiple-personality disorder – at one moment it’s a heart-felt drama and the next it’s a flashy action movie filled to the brim with explosions. Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, “Growing Pains”) stars as Danny Archer, an African diamond smuggler with a military background who is searching for a way out of a country engulfed in civil war. On the other hand, the impeccable Djimon Hounsou (In America, Gladiator) plays Solomon Vandy, an African fisherman whose village is pillaged by an African civil uprising gang. Though his family escapes, Solomon is kidnapped by the gang and thrown into a forced labor camp where he finds the largest diamond anyone has ever seen.
After the two meet in prison, the stage is set for Archer’s quest for the diamond and Vandy’s quest to find his family. Unfortunately, Blood Diamond bites off more than it can chew thematically. It desperately wants to paint the bloody portrait of Sierra Leone’s civil war of the 1990s, but the film’s strongest moments, which revolve around Vandy, are overshadowed by Archer’s futile quest for a diamond. Not only is the greedy lust for diamonds fueling Africa’s civil war, but it also provides the plot’s macguffin. When the film finally takes the time to explore a worthwhile theme, whether it’s the brainwashing of Vandy’s son by the civil uprising gang or Vandy’s own desperation, Archer’s horrendous accent breaks through the dramatic tension.
Perhaps Blood Diamond is most disappointing because it has the potential to explore events and aspects of the Sierra Leone civil war, but just when the film seems to transcend its own melodrama, there is an explosion and Archer starts running around with his gun blazing. Director Edward Zwick spreads himself thin after so many bombastic action sequences and can’t get a handle on the film dramatically.
The best example of the film’s inadequacies is its finale, in which Vandy is about to testify in a congressional meeting. The screen fades to black and a title screen appears urging consumers not to buy smuggled “blood” diamonds. Once that screen fades to black, a loud gangster rap song about diamonds blares through the speakers and the confusion sets in. We know that the film offers an important message, but it is hidden by sensational vignettes of violence and a public service announcement.
Yet, the social problems the film presents can’t be covered by a five-minute, “The More You Know” advertisement nor summed up in a popular rap song. The effect of the civil war on its people is, hands down, the most important aspect of the film. Perhaps Zwick, or Warner Bros., thinks that an audience wouldn’t care about African hardships and need some star power and gunplay to drive up ticket sales. Either way, an important cinematic opportunity is passed up and another mediocre and forgettable action/drama film is open for business.