Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews
Film Review
by Harvey Perr
Blood Diamond
now playing nationwide
Edward Zwick possesses social conscience, humanitarian instincts, and formidable directorial skills, and he has clearly made “Blood Diamond” to demonstrate all of the above, and the demonstration leaves almost nothing to be desired. He provides us with information about the civil war in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s that most of us probably knew very little about; about how diamonds, known as conflict diamonds, were used to support that war and its insurgency, and to trade for arms; and how the most valuable diamonds were taken off the market by diamond dealers in order to maintain the value of existing diamonds. In short, some ugly truths about the diamond industry and the human carnage that was the result of its profit-making ambitions are revealed to us. This is the historical event that provides the potent background for his film.
Then there is the film itself, which is, strictly speaking, an action adventure, but one, of course, with a difference. You might say it is an action adventure film that is disguised as a serious film with a social conscience, but to say that is to deny the effectiveness of the film’s epic style that is, in sheer momentum, almost always exciting and even stirring to watch. And, at the center of that boiling adventure, there is that love story, the voltage of which is turned up by the sheer power of its stars: Leonardo DiCaprio (pumped up to a testosterone level you’ve never seen in him before) as Danny Archer, the mercenary in need of redemption; and Jennifer Connelly (smart and ravishingly beautiful) as Maddy Brown, the journalist who will do almost anything to get a story. You might say that these are fairly formulaic lovers, but there is no getting around the fact that they are the Scarlett and Rhett, the Rick and Ilsa, the Karen Blixen and Denys Hatton at the very romantic heart of this film.
There is also the love, homoerotically charged (without which no real cinematic saga is ever complete) between DiCaprio, the white African mercenary, and Djimon Hounsou, the black African everyman, i.e. “The Defiant Ones” revisited and updated.  And, finally, there is the story of Fathers and Sons: DiCaprio and the father he never had, and Hounsou, the father in ferocious search of his son, who has been trained by the rebels to become a child soldier (of which we are told 400,000 still exist today), and with whom he is destined to have a reunion – at first threatening and potentially murderous, but finally tearful and triumphant – before the film’s final moments (oh, am I giving something away?).
Then, too, there is Eduardo Serra’s sumptuous and breathtaking cinematography, which, despite all that human carnage on display, should spark a vast tourist migration to Sierra Leone.  And there is also that “Z”-like ending, in which we see the film’s real bad guys receive the punishment they deserve. All things considered, this is one of those “great” films, one of those instant classics, a film that has everything and just a little more.  A film destined to win a ton of Academy Award nominations and then, at those grand ceremonies, many of its nominees (or the wives of the nominees) will show up swathed in diamonds, but sure to remind you that those are not “conflict” diamonds they are wearing.
So, yes, this is a movie full of real and honorable virtues; a movie that, as a movie, is good – indeed very good – but, as you may have surmised from a certain tone that has crept into this review, it is a film which I hate from the bottom of my heart, with every bone in my body, because it makes me feel sad and angry and impotent; because it fills the screen with acts of barbaric cruelty which I cannot fully comprehend and about which I can do nothing; because it shows me the incredibly violent things people are capable of doing to each other yet asks me to cry over the fictional mush at its center; because pictures are more powerful than words; because no matter how much we are told that these black Africans learned their worst tortures from white Belgians, the image that lingers in our head is of black men behaving like animals; because it wants us to empathize with the plight of those black men of simple and innate decency while taking pleasure in watching thousands of extras being slaughtered; because it exploits everything it wants us to feel compassion about; because it reduces all of this to eye candy; because it comes to us, not when we can do something about it, but after the fact; and finally, because the money this film makes will not go towards helping the victims of this nightmare, but will instead go into the making of more movies that will awaken us to the evils of the world without changing a damned thing.
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