This is Africa?, 26 December 2006
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
An Edward Zwick film always reeks of quality. Think of his “Courage Under Fire,” the first big film to address the Gulf War, or the Tom Cruise starer “The Last Samurai.” Both were very good films, but didn’t quite reach the epic status they seemed to be aiming for. Zwick commonly has compelling stories with big stars and a big budget…but his films are always missing that special something–the visceral jolt or that artistic flair that separate the good movies from the great movies. “Blood Diamond” tries very hard to be a pulse-pounding and heart wrenching political thriller in the vein of last year’s “The Constant Gardner,” but in its earnest and noble attempt to bring to life the plight of Africans involved in the mining and smuggling of diamonds, it falls short.
The writers deserve credit for trying to highlight so many compelling tangents of this hot-button story that touches on price gouging, corporate “funding” of civil war, enslavement of native Africans in their own land, and the brutal indoctrination of child armies by radical rebel forces. Zwick, always competent staging a tense battle scene and realistic violence, unfortunately directs everything else in a pedestrian manner that hinders the inherent compelling nature of the plot. An uninspired music score and two false endings don’t help.
The superb cast helps keep things slightly off kilter and interesting for the audience. Leonardo DiCaprio as the suddenly conscious-stricken diamond smuggler has become one of those uber-stars who is always better than expected in spite of himself. He sports and unidentifiable accent (is it supposed to be a Zimbabwe accent, or someone from Zimbabwe doing a bad impression of a South African accent?) that isn’t as nearly distracting as it was in the previews for the film. Following his masterful turn in “The Departed”, Leo has somehow managed to wipe away his pretty-boy image and become a very reliable man’s-man actor-intense and brooding and ready for action. It’s also nice to see the stunning Jennifer Connelly in a role other than that of a tortured middle class woman with dark secrets. She’s underused here as the wily reporter looking to make a difference with her “big story,” but her always slightly subversive line readings are effortlessly enticing, and she’s become one of those rare actresses who looks even sexier as she ages. To round out the ensemble, there’s Djimon Hounsou, always riveting in his typecast role of a passionate and angry African willing to do anything for his family.
“Blood Diamond” is ultimately one of those movies that is greater to talk about than actually sit through. It has some fine performances and a compelling story that gives much food for thought, but isn’t as well executed as it should be. Like all Zwick films, it has a brain and a keen eye, but its heart seems strangely insincere.
Originally published on the Internet Movie Database