‘GIVE ME BACK MY SON!!!’ Sorry, just had a ‘Ransom’ flashback as that line was uttered by America’s favorite anti-Semite, one Mel Gibson. You know what, that’s probably not really fair because you should hear some of the things I’ve yelled at the police in a drunken rage after they’ve pulled me over. But I’m not famous, so I guess all of that will die with me. The reason that ‘GIVE ME BACK MY SON’ has relevance here is because it is recited quite often by my good friend Jhimon Hounsou in director Edward Zwicks sub African drama ‘Blood Diamond’. Okay, so Jhimon isn’t really my good friend, but I did get to videotape him during a group of red carpet interviews for ‘The Island’.
There is some concern that when this movie is released, it will harm the diamond industry since it is alleged some 15 to 20 percent of the diamonds sold in the U.S. are from ‘conflict areas’ or places where diamonds are mined to buy weapons which in turn are used to kill, maim, slaughter and destroy. Mostly children. While this may be true, the country of Sierra Leone should be the most pissed off since this movie will almost certainly kill whatever tourism industry they may have had.
Hounsou is Solomon Vandy, a hard working fisherman and father of three walking his son to school. While performing this seemingly mundane task, he spies a couple of truck loads of armed warlords motoring towards his village. We, the audience, are unsure of what’s going on, but judging by Solomon’s urgency driven fear of getting back to the village, he knows all too well. What happens next is pretty horrific as the warlord soldiers start to indiscriminately slaughter the village, children and all. Solomon is able to save his wife and children but he winds up being captured and
and is only spared having his arms cut off because he seems big enough and strong enough to work the diamond swamps.
While working the swamps Solomon unearths the biggest, pinkest diamond that he, or anyone else has ever mined, and at immense personal risk he manages to hide it while more bloodshed is being rained down by the government fighting the warlords that have taken him away. Sent temporarily to a holding cell, he meets David Archer (Leonardo DiCarpio) a soldier of fortune Diamond smuggler who has heard of this diamond of Solomon’s and pressures him to help him find the diamond. One of the Warlords, a Captain Poison (David Harewood) has kidnapped Solomon’s ten year old son and is training him to be a remorseless killer. Posion’s ultimate goal is to retrieve the diamond as well. Solomon and David, with the help of a dogged reporter played Jennifer Connelly race to save Solomon’s son. Or, considering each one’s agenda, Solomon is racing to save his son, Archer is racing to find the rock and get rich, and Maddy (Connelly) is racing to break the biggest story she’s ever had.
With ‘Glory’ and ‘The Last Samurai’ under his belt, director Edward Zwick knows how to handle films on a large scale and ‘Blood Diamond’ is no exception as the scope and the magnitude of this film is sweeping and vast. There are some truly horrific sequences of violence, particularly violence against children, that are simply heart breaking and very difficult to watch. I’d even go so far as to say that this one of the violent and bloody films I’ve ever seen and one should go see this film, if interested, with that in mind.
DiCaprio delivers yet another great performance as the heartless mercenary who may, or may not have a heart of gold under his rough leathery exterior, and my good friend Jhimon Hounsou is effective as the non-violent fisherman who is willing to sacrifice all to save his son. Connolly gives a good performance as the driven journalist, but her role seems sort of tacked on to create a manufactured love interest for DiCaprio’s Archer, and all in all seemed wholly unnecessary to drive the narrative. Truth be told, there was a lot of fat in this two and a half hour film that could have been trimmed. Never one to shy away from violence of any sort, but I get it already. Africa sucks, folks drive around and kill each other often because it’s something to do. I got it the first three or four times I saw it, I don’t need to see it anymore.
There was quite a bit of preachiness going on here as well with the constant reference of ‘Blood Diamonds’ and ‘Conflict Diamonds’ and what hand the big diamond conglomerate, which is obviously a thinly veiled guise for DeBeers, has in facilitating these African tragedies. Not that these companies should be stroked on the head given a pat on the butt for their humanitarianism, for I truly believe they live only for profit at any means, but again, I get it already. And maybe it’s just the cynic in me, but I don’t think the vast majority of diamond purchasers give less than a damn where the rock came from or how much blood had to flow so some guy can slip a new bauble on his mistresses finger.
All in all, ‘Blood Diamond’ was well crafted, as all Edward Zwick films are, and well realized, and an exciting drama with some stellar action sequences. Its flaws where plenty with a forced love conundrum, and way too much melodrama given the subject matter. Leonardo DiCaprio is quickly cementing a claim to be one of the top actors of his generation. I just seems that for this film in particular, a little less could have been a whole lot more.