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Blood Diamond (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Most of us take the nice, soft life we live for granted. We rarely stop to think about what it’s like in other parts of the world.

Life here is nothing like it is in Africa, where natives brutally kill and maim other natives with impunity and glee. Two years ago a wonderful film, “Hotel Rwanda,” tried to show what it was like to be a Tutsi in Rwanda when 1,000,000 of them were being slaughtered by the Hutus, all of which was ignored by the UN and the Clinton Administration, even though he thought it important to risk American lives to save white Muslims in Kosovo, where the death toll was about one percent of what it was in Rwanda, where the victims were black and often Christian. Now Blood Diamond, an even better film, shows what life was like in Sierra Leone at the close of the 20th Century.

Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), an ex-mercenary from Zimbabwe, is in the business of trading diamonds for arms. Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) is an American journalist in Sierra Leone trying to expose the truth behind the “conflict” diamonds Danny is selling, hoping to prove an unholy alliance between diamond industry leaders and bad guys who are using diamonds to buy guns they use to massacre people.

Meanwhile, Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a Mende fisherman, is enslaved after brutal revolutionaries invade his village and kidnap his son, Dia (Kagiso Kuypers). Solomon surreptitiously finds a huge diamond, buries it, and escapes. Danny finds out about it and links up with him and Maddy. Each has different goals; Solomon wants to find his son, Maddy wants her story, and Danny wants the diamond.

There are multiple story lines in this film and each has a moral. One of the most compelling is the story of how these brutal marauders, epitomized by Captain Poison (David Harewood), who enslaves Dia, turn innocent young children into cold-blooded killers. Dia starts out as a loving son who wants to be a doctor. What happens to him is chilling and it happens every day in Africa. It is estimated that there are 400,000 children who have been converted into emotionless killers.

With this film, DiCaprio should be recognized as one of the best American actors of his generation, if not the best. He should be odds-on favorite for best actor Oscar, for which I had already nominated him for his performance in “The Departed.” No longer a callow youth, he creates an anti-hero in the mold of Bogart and Newman, speaking in a southern African accent with an authenticity that is beyond question.

The cinematography (Eduardo Serra) is also Oscar-quality. The combat scenes, shot with hand-held cameras, put the viewer right in the middle of the battle. Throughout, Serra’s captivating photography shares star billing with DiCaprio.

Director Edward Zwick has taken a first-rate script by Charles Leavitt and produced a high-energy, tension-filled tale that tells a story along with educating people about what is going on in the world, without question one of the most entertaining films of the year.

December 7, 2006