Diamond in the rough
An otherwise fine film hobbled by disjointed script
In striving to deliver not only a bracing action film but a socially relevant exposé on the dire state of modern Africa as well, Edward Zwick succeeds in rattling viewers. Without question, Blood Diamond has a timely and worthwhile agenda and is at its best when showing the horrendous conditions facing the millions of poor living in Sierra Leone and South Africa. Unfortunately, this otherwise fine film is hobbled by a less-than-cohesive script.
Set in 1999, during the civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone, Diamond concerns a tenuous alliance of three strong-willed individuals who have no problem using each other for their own ends. Having been arrested for diamond smuggling, Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is desperate to get his hands on a massive stone he’s heard that former prisoner Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) has found and hidden while being forced to work for the rebel forces intent on ousting the powers that be. Vandy agrees to help Archer find the diamond when the smuggler promises to help him find his displaced family. Unfortunately, the stone has been buried deep in the African bush, and the duo finds it impossible to breach this territory. Enter reporter Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), who longs to expose the connection between the world’s largest diamond buyer and those who supply the buyer with conflict stones that come from Sierra Leone, the sale of which fund the rebel movement. Bowen agrees to help Archer and Vandy in their search — she has access to the area where they need to travel — but only if the smuggler assists her by supplying the names of his high-profile customers.
Not only does the script by Charles Leavitt juggle these three storylines, but it also includes the plight of Vandy’s son Dia (Caruso Kaypurs). Abducted by Capt. Poison (David Harewood), the very same rebel leader who held Vandy prisoner, the young boy is being brainwashed into becoming a child soldier of the revolution. Time and again, Zwick underscores just how many people have been displaced by the rebel fighting and just how vast the land is where this conflict occurs. In showing us a refugee camp where 1 million homeless people are being held and chronicling the long trek that Archer and Vandy set out on, chance meetings that occur between characters and the connection between Poison and the Vandys seem implausible.
However, Zwick does not let us focus for long on these narrative flaws; instead, he assails the viewer with one atrocity after another. Although Connelly gives a weak and obvious performance, her character plays a pivotal role in the film as through her eyes we see the plight of those caught in the crossfire. Zwick and Leavitt accomplish all they set out to do in these moments, generating sympathy and stoking outrage in the face of these atrocities.