I don’t know about you, but I watched Blood Diamond just last month, some thirteen years after its original release. Of course, I was fully aware of it, I just found the whole story too depressing to watch. It was never the right time to watch it and think about the issues it explores. Issues that still haven’t changed much, almost twenty years later. You might even say that the baddies have expanded their operations, to better suit the needs of the developed countries.
Cobalt is the new craze as one of the key ingredients of mobile phone batteries. And children are still sifting through endless mountains of dirt in order to find this precious commodity. And there are also other minerals that are being mined, all over the world, in poorer countries. That is, however, a subject for another time. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who was still looking to establish himself as the “serious” actor, beautiful and always mesmerizing Jennifer Connelly, and finally the star of the show Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond is a lot less preachy than I initially thought.
It has an almost adventurous atmosphere and with phenomenal cinematography, it looks very sleek and engaging. This doesn’t mean that the political messaging isn’t present, it’s just that it kinda drowns in this gray world. A world where you cannot make a morally clear decision because the problems are so overwhelming that it’s impossible to rationally comprehend them. Luckily, the focus is on well-developed characters so you won’t have any trouble following the story.
It is the year of our lord Satan 1999 and Sierra Leone is in complete chaos. The rebel army called RUF has taken over most of the country, killing and mutilating everybody. The corrupt and inept government is fighting a bloody war with them. RUF is financing its operations by digging diamonds in rural areas. Danny Archer, an arms dealer is right in the middle of this war and ready for retirement. He has been doing this for a long time, really lucky that he’s still alive. At the same time, Solomon Vandy, a poor digger whose family was kidnapped by the RUF, finds a huge-ass diamond. A diamond that might just change everything…
Blood Diamond is strangely enough, utterly formulaic but still very engaging. Using Leo’s and Djimon’s powerful performances, it anchored our attention. Leo’s character was especially interesting, as someone who firmly rejects the redemption path and stays true to who he really is. This, in my opinion, ultimately made the movie worth watching, because otherwise, we would be looking at a completely predictable story. The pacing was a bit off sometimes. However, that is understandable with a runtime of over two and a half hours.
There was also enough action to make the atmosphere vibrant, especially when combined with exotic visuals. Depending on how deep you are willing to go, this movie will offer you different perspective on a couple of things, but most of all Afrika and its residents. I feel like the film-makers were treating them as objects, as children who are misbehaving and don’t know any better. Especially in the final sermon about diamonds that people in developed countries are buying. We are denying the population of Africa the opportunity to be sometimes evil and sometimes good.
Instead, they are just mindless automatons of the rich masterminds who want these diamonds. The main cause of all this misery is poverty and the destruction of traditional systems of values that cannot be effective in the 21st century. Well, that was a bit deeper than expected. The very real and impactful depictions of child soldier training sessions prompted me to go this far. However, you can remain firmly on the surface and enjoy Blood Diamond without this additional baggage, following destinies of three interesting characters amidst this chaos.
Wikipedia link for the war: Sierra Leone Civil War
Director: Edward Zwick
Writers: Charles Leavitt, C. Gaby Mitchell
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers, Arnold Vosloo, Michael Sheen
Fun Facts: Solomon’s son’s name is Dia, which means “expensive” in Krio, the adapted language of Sierra Leone.
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0450259/