Straightforward storytelling lets ‘Blood Diamond’ shine

Andrew Gaug

In the Kanye West song “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” West rhymes “Though it’s thousands of miles away/Sierra Leone connect to what we go through today/Over here, its a drug trade, we die from drugs/Over there, they die from what we buy from drugs.”

Imagine those lyrics put to a movie, and that’s the idea of the excellent Leonardo DiCaprio film Blood Diamond.

In Diamond, DiCaprio plays Danny Archer, a South African diamond smuggler looking for a priceless diamond that will be his ticket out of the war-torn Sierra Leone. When in prison Archershares a cell with fisherman Solomon Vandy, played by Amistad’s Djimon Hounsou, a fellow cellmate and revolutionary lets it slip that Vandy has discovered an extravagant pink diamond.

With this knowledge, it snowballs into a quest between Archer, who wants the diamond to get out of the country, Vandy, who needs Archer to help find his family that was placed in a refugee camp and several other people Archer has ties with who want the diamond to sell at top value.

DiCaprio has proved in both Diamond and fall’s The Departed that he not only is able to sell an accent but also knows how to pick the right movies. Throughout the film, he becomes Archer with his ability to connive people into thinking he’ll help them despite his only goal of personal gain. Hounsou, who has always been relegated to mediocre supporting roles in action movies such as Biker Boyz and The Island, shines as Vandy with his ability to channel so much emotion and depth into an already heartbreaking character.

The film itself is a refreshing change from the many politically driven dramas that seem to emulate the Crash narrative of throwing together four or five different stories all threaded along with a common theme. In Diamond, the story is about Archer and Vandy’s quest to stay alive long enough to get the coveted diamond and get away from the revolutionaries in Africa.

Though an equally talented supporting cast including Requiem for a Dream‘s Jennifer Connelly, Garden State‘s Ato Essandoh and “24’s” Arnold Vosloo help add flavor to the story and Archer and Vandy’s characters, they don’t take away from the main storyline.

The movie follows director Edward Zwick’s previous films, The Last Samurai and The Siege‘s principle themes of people caught in treacherous times in world history and their attempts to survive – Diamond seems to capture the sincerity and performances similar to his classic Civil War film Glory. The cinematography captures the beauty and grit of a mid-’90s Africa torn in half by rebels and the civilians.

The movie’s overall theme of illegal diamond trading and the cost of innocent people’s lives tends to be overbearing toward the end, and makes an already long movie about 10 minutes too long. The movie brings the point of the tragedies and horrors of the diamond trade in Africa; an epilogue seems unnecessary.

Despite minor flaws, Blood Diamond is propelled by its Oscar-worthy performances from both DiCaprio and Hounsou as well as a compelling story. While lots of films this year will stand out by being as unconventional as possible, Diamond shows sometimes being straightforward is the best way to tell a story.

Contact ALL editor Andrew Gaug at [email protected].

Blood Diamond

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer


Directed by Edward Zwick

Distributed by Warner Brothers

Rated R for strong violence and language

Stater rating (out of five): ????