Friday, December 08, 2006

BLOOD DIAMOND

There’s a lot to like about Blood Diamond – solid cast, great action sequences, a really interesting subplot about the use of children in rebellion groups. But there’s probably more not to like. Leo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, and Jennifer Connelly play pretty solid types, but their characters really are just that – types (the rough-and-tumble greedy opportunist who has a change of heart, the noble countryman concerned solely for his family, and the crusading reporter trying to make a bigger difference, respectively). With a little extra push, they could’ve made the types interesting, and there are times when it seems like they’re veering from the path, but don’t worry – they aren’t. It all ends just about like you’d expect.

The central story is that Djimon Hounsou (who was the MAN in Amistad and In America) is torn away from his family by a bunch of rebels making money on the diamond black market. He’s forced into working for them, where he comes across a massive diamond, worth millions alone. So he decides to steal it and hide it, despite having seen a fellow worker shot on the spot for doing just that a few days back. There are a couple of problems here – first, the guy who was shot for doing that was spotted doing so by a guy…I dunno, a hundred yards away? Two hundred? And that one was tiny. Second, he hides it between his toes, and the guy who searches him (Djimon gets excused so he can take a crap) looks in his mouth and ears and nose and pockets…but not his feet? Third, when Leo finds out about this diamond and forces Djimon to take him to it, Djimon never really presents all that much interest in keeping it for himself, which brings into question all kinds of things about why he risked his life in the first place.

It’s these kinds of leaps in logic that keep Blood Diamond from being as real as it should (although it is violent as shit – so if that counts for realism, you’re in luck), never mind the multiple instances of high tension that are broken by large groups of people with guns coming in and shooting the crap out of everything (except the three leads, which is a convention I’ve just come to accept).

There’s also a lotta awkward shifts in the film. Mere seconds after laughing off Connelly opening up, telling her that Americans (DiCaprio is supposed to be South African, but the accent’s a bit of a stretch) put too much emphasis on feelings (which I thought was a pretty strange stereotype to begin with), he breaks down over the loss of his parents and the current state of Africa. Wouldn’t have minded it so much if it had anything to do with his character at all, or if it somehow lent itself to some sort of payoff; I would’ve even settled for Leo and Jenny to hop into bed, but it really is just there to make him seem a little more friendly.

It’s hardly the worst you can do at the movies right now, but for what it aims to be (a serious examination of the effects of global trade), it just doesn’t reach there. The best parts of the movie are these really small bits that comprise…I dunno, ten minutes worth of screen time that involve training children to be a part of the rebellion. It’s really frightening stuff, and you really hate the hell out of the militia group for it, but it’s too bad that the rest of the film couldn’t find that same tension and be as interesting.

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