In most circumstances, I would just write a movie like Blood Diamond off as a mediocre star vehicle. But when a movie purports to be important, and fails, it incurs my wrath. Don’t think you can pass off a message movie as a swashbuckling action-adventure on my watch.
Movie Review: Blood Diamond
In Blood Diamond, a peaceful Mende fisherman (Djimon Hounsou), sees the corrupt African militia coming to his village. Though he tries to save his family, they are separated. The fisherman is forced to work in the diamond fields while his son is trained to be a militia killer and the rest of his family wait in a camp. In the fields, he finds and hides a rare, pink stone.
Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is looking for a way out of South Africa. When he hears of this blood diamond, he sees it as his ticket, so he makes a deal to find the fisherman’s family in return for the stone. A journalist (Jennifer Connelly) tags along to try to convince Archer to pay more attention to the atrocities of the government and military than his own personal riches.
All sounds promising so far. Hey, Indiana Jones fought Nazis. But he also never ran from a boulder in a concentration camp. Blood Diamond shows us plenty of tragedy, but it all feels like Hollywood pathos. Kids get their arms cut off, and that’s bad, but the focus is on the fisherman and his family. So it sucks that his kid is being brainwashed, and his wife and other children are locked in a camp, but all he does about it for the whole movie is scream and cry. How is that going to help them? Are the big men with guns going to feel threatened by his powerful voice, or find sympathy in his plight? It’s the sign of a filmmaker that doesn’t really have anything to say, so he just shows some tragedy and lets his actors cry about it.
The action is nothing to get excited about either. They dodge a lot of gunfire and run around the desert and jungle, but there’s never any wonder of “how are they going to get out of this one?” It’s just “time for an action scene, get some helicopters and machine guns.”
There isn’t even any banter that makes you bond with the trio on their journey. Connelly is playfully flirtatious but Archer seems so uninterested there’s never any romantic tension. And Archer is either using the fisherman or he’s going to help him, but there’s no talk outside of the political issue that makes these real characters. Nobody’s playfully hating each other, or even really learning how much they actually have in common.
Blood Diamond is Oscar bait at its most blatant. Don’t let them suck you in with their lies of rousing action or moving emotional journeys. It’s just tragedy by the numbers peppered with lame battle scenes. Jackass Number Two has more to say about the human condition.