Blood Diamond (2006)
Directed by Edward Zwick
A historical drama as riveting as “Blood Diamond” is a rare gem. Exciting and unpredictable action, tense drama, and Oscar-nominated acting put “Blood Diamond” (Leonardo DiCaprio’s lesser-appreciated of the year, after “The Departed”) in a class of its own.
Set against the backdrop of the 1999 Sierra Leone civil war, the story begins with rebels tearing through a small fishing village, killing men, women, and children. Well, most of them. The healthy young men (including Solomon Vandy, played by Djimon Hounsou) are put to work mining diamonds to be exported for dirty money. When he finds a rare pink diamond, he hides it with the hopes of staying alive long enough to come back for it. When he runs into diamond smuggler Danny Archer (DiCaprio), Archer promises to help him find his brutally divided family…in return for the diamond. Photojournalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) is trying to write an investigative piece about the sale of blood diamonds (those obtained through oppressive or violent means) to a high-profile diamond retailer, but until she meets Archer she has no facts to back up the rumors. To get the piece, Bowen will follow the men as they race against rebel armies to find the rare diamond Vandy left behind in enemy territory.
Leo sports a can-do attitude and a shaky accent as he revels in his Oscar-nominated role. He loses the stardom and gives a truly genuine performance as he goes above and beyond. Hounsou, too, has his heart in it. His incredibly passionate performance was enough to earn him his own Oscar nomination. Tears flow as he delivers a painful soliloquy to his son, who had been kidnapped by the rebels. He screams as his wife and daughter are torn away from the fence separating
them. You buy it the whole time. And to round out the impressive trio, Jennifer Connelly gives one of the best performances of her career. In a movie tinged with some well-timed comedic relief, Connelly is usually the comic one. Her role blends humor and heart to create a desperate character we’re all rooting for.
A well-written script from Charles Leavitt (“K-Pax”) and C. Gaby Mitchell (“Get Low”) allows for remarkable character development. It’s a subtle arc – not major epiphanies cheaply obtained through traumatic events, but realistic personalities that get more complex the further you go along. Danny Archer is an onion, but only Leo’s acting and Leavitt’s script could reveal to audiences that Archer isn’t exactly what he seemed earlier in the film.
But it’s not just the character development that this screenplay excels in. “Blood Diamond” is fast-paced, it’s suspenseful, and you’re going to wanna know what happens next. Its action is volatile, and James Newton Howard (six times Oscar-nominated for Best Original Score) writes music that drives that action and pushes the drama to the breaking point. If your heart races like mine did, he’s partially to thank.
Dramas that can also hook you with really electrifying action are hard to come by. “Blood Diamond” has the best of both worlds – Oscar-winning quality with summer blockbuster thrills. Buckle your seatbelt.