Edward Zwick returns with a film that is short of a sequel for his embarrassing The Last Samurai. Both are set in exotic lands (oh adventure!) with two Hollywood big names playing mercenaries who are in the end redeemed by honor and the power of love, which is just ridiculous. Blood Diamond at least gives Leonardo DiCaprio an opportunity to play his meanest character ever — making 2006 a great year for him — but which makes the aforementioned redemption even harder to swallow.
DiCaprio’s mercenary, Danny Archer, is a diamond smuggler, and he comes across Solomon, a miner (Djimon Honsou) who has found a rare blood diamond of the size of an egg, but who needs help finding his family. To the rescue comes Maddy Bowen, Jennifer Connelly’s American journalist, who obviously kindles a relationship with Archer, softening the guy’s heart. The plot is simplistic and almost non-existent, which wouldn’t be a problem in an adventure film like Romancing the Stone (with which it shares the same basic premises). However, instead of any sense of adventure, humor, and fun, what we get is the political backdrop of commercial exploitation, war and poor living and working conditions in Africa caused partly by the illegal commerce of diamonds. Blood Diamond does not know if it wants to be a political thriller or an old-fashioned adventure, and it fails at both.
The political aspect is ludicrous for its absolute lack of consistency. Take Jennifer Connelly’s character, who condemns American girls who buy diamonds for a magazine wedding and have no idea of the suffering it may have caused to an African. Later she stops to take pictures of homeless Africans — which Zwick decides to put on screen in black and white frames as she takes them, making us complicitous in this act of romanticizing Africa once again. Like 2005’s The Constant Gardener, there is still a great infatuation in making it too exotic, and that shows also in other areas. The action scenes are almost all completely unnecessary and boring. It is no wonder the only interesting character in the whole movie is Archer. We couldn’t care less for Solomon, because he is not given any emotional depth, verbal skills or characterization (Honsou has been reprising his role from 1997’s Amistad ever since, and there is even a scene in a courtroom that brings back frightful associations). The bad guys, part of a militia who recruits children, are shown to be really bad by giving children machine guns and cigarettes, but also by listening to hiphop and wearing Snoop Dogg t-shirts.
The movie ends with titles that say something like “ensure that any diamonds you buy are conflict-free diamonds.” I may be wrong, but the demographics of moviegoers doesn’t really overlap with that of diamond-buyers, (it would make a very small portion, yes) and even if it did, a) do you really think they would pay more for a “conflict-free certified stone” or b) sellers would tell the truth — even if they knew it themselves? It’s all part of the naïveté of the movie: that all you have to do to help is to ensure the provenance of your diamonds, and even bad guys like Archer can give their lives to save an African.
OBS: kudos to whoever thought of the names for the main characters of this movie. That’s real cute. You get it? Archer. BOWen. And King Solomon’s Mines.