Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond

Cast and crew:
USA (2006)
Length: 126 minutes
Genre: Adventure thriller and drama
Directed by: Edward Zwick
Screenplay: Charles Leavitt
Producers: Gillian Gorfil, Marshall Herskovitz, Graham King, Darrell Roodt, Paula Weinstein and Edward Zwick
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers, Arnold Vosloo and Benu Mabhena

While he's in a prison in Sierra Leone, an African country, Danny Archer, a diamond smuggler, meets Solman Vandy. Solman is a farmer who got captured by soldiers of the government of Sierra Leone while he was forced against his will by a group of rebels from the Revolutionary United Africa to collect diamonds that will finance a coup d'État. Archer learns that Vandy has hidden a big and rare diamond somewhere before he got arrested. After both of them got out of prison, Danny Archer will drag Solman Vandy into a quest for the diamond that Solman Vandy has hidden.

During the holydays, our dear Southern neighbours probably keep invading us with all kinds of movies meant for entertainment. However, don’t be surprised if you see a movie in the likes of Blood Diamond appearing on the market these days, because whether you like it or not, Hollywood is gradually preparing itself for the Oscar. As a movie about African politics and conflict diamonds, Blood Diamond went beyond my general expectations. For a rare moment in my life, I was watching a Hollywood movie that aims to deliver a moral message.

Despite the quality and exhaustive nature of Blood Diamond’s script, it is easy to come to the conclusion that what slightly mares the potential of movie director Edward Zwick’s latest flick is the small – oh yes, you heard me – presence of stereotypes that are deeply – and perhaps historically – rooted into the Westerners’ collective mentality. Hopefully, despite that little flaw, the actors who form the well chosen cast of Blood Diamond succeeds into amazing us with their unsullied and impeccable thespian abilities.

As Danny Archer, a South African Afrikaner “businessman”, Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic ; Gangs of New York) holds a nice role, albeit a little bit stereotyped, that commands respect. Di Caprio’s character, in the beginning, embodies what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor refers to as the “instrumental reason”. Anybody can sense Danny Archer’s desire to make profits without paying attention to the moral aspect of his deeds. In fact, it will take time before Archer notices that his smuggling activities spread havoc not just in Sierra Leone, but also in Africa (i.e. people who are savagely being killed by warlords who use diamonds to buy weapons) thanks to Maddy Bowen, a charming and intelligent journalist who is played by none other than Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind).

However, if we go back to the exploration of Danny Archer’s “instrumental reason” (Charles Taylor), one must know that there’s actually a hint of a subtle racism towards black people that was born from the European colonialism. Throughout the existential conflicts that often tear the relation between David Archer and Solman Vandy (the black African who helps Archer in his quest for profits), the perception that Archer has towards Vandy (and by extension towards black people) will change gradually at the point that he will come to stop regarding Soman Vandy as an inferior being.

Even though Blood Diamond doesn’t explicitly show the racism of Afrikaners towards black Africans, it is certainly Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, of all the Afrikaner characters, who gets all the necessary development. The other Afrikaners in the movie are a little bit artificial when you look at the way they act. Unfortunately, Charles Leavitt, the scriptwriter, didn’t take the time to develop these characters and bring more nuances into their psychological morphology. That explains why viewers are – how to say that politely – bounded to watch living and also horrifying caricatures of Afrikaners smugglers who remorselessly intimidate and kill black Africans in order to gain their ends. Nonetheless, these supporting characters are very well played by real competent actors such as Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy), as colonel Coetzee.

While showing up as Solman Vandy, Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator), of all the supporting members of the cast, is definitely the one who defends the most demanding role. In fact, even though Hounsou’s character looks like so many other characters in other movies, he still manages to depict the obvious complex of inferiority and the pathetic innocence that Solman Vandy, as an African, has while he sees white people. Furthermore, that complex of inferiority is the result of the European colonialism. However, what makes this character very interesting, it’s rather the fact that his stubbornness seldom gives to the storyline many unpredictable twists that brilliantly show the depth of Hounsou’s character.

In this movie that is not likely to make you fall asleep, you will not only be forced to buckled up your seat belt before the ride begins, but you will also learn a few things about conflict diamonds. Even though Blood Diamond might not necessarily satisfy your thirst and curiosity about conflict diamonds, this complex political issue that the media don’t always talk about, it is a movie that successfully show you four different perspective of the story through the eyes of: white smugglers (ex: David Archer), ordinary Westerners (ex: Maddy Bowen), an average African (ex: Solman Vandy) and a kid-soldier (ex: Solman’s son). As a result of that, we get to see at the same time a very touching movie about the complexity of human nature and also a movie brimming with rough, harsh, brutal and violent scenes that illustrate what many Africans have lived because of conflict diamonds.

Finally, the other surprising thing with Blood Diamond is the simplicity of the action scenes. When you watch them, you do have the odd feeling that you’re in the movie. In fact, the constant movements of the camera gives you the feeling that the movie is not far from being a documentary even though the story is, without a doubt, fictitious in a certain manner. All in all, Blood Diamond, despite a few lack of common sense here and there (i.e. African rebel militias that listen to Afro-American rap?!?!) simultaneously combines the quality of a documentary and also an adventure movie that you’re not going to forget.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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