Monday, December 4, 2006

Blood Diamond

Edward Zwick's Blood Diamond
By Nick Clement

What's so disappointing about Ed Zwick's latest Hollywood melodrama Blood Diamond is just how great it could have been. Never entirely sure of what it wants to be, the overwrought screenplay by Charles Leavitt mixes 1940's action-adventure attitudes, 1970's cynicism, and 1990's action technology to uneasy effect; the final product is an overcooked yet entertaining mess. Leonardo DiCaprio, in fine Gary Cooper/Jimmy Stewart mode, is immensely watchable as tough-as-nails soldier of fortune Danny Archer, who works with both European government officials (in a totally glossed-over subplot) and the nastiest African warlords in order to move "blood diamonds" aka "conflict diamonds" across the world. He joins forces with a wrongly imprisoned fisherman named Solomon Vandy, played with regular intensity and hysterics by Djimon Honsou; his son has been kidnapped by local militia and is being trained as a child soldier. Vandy has found--and hidden--a giant pink diamond that is the key to both men's survival. Archer and Vandy agree to help one another in order to find Vandy's son, and recover the stone. Along for the ride, though supremely underused, is the ever beautiful Jennifer Connolly as an intrepid and improbably sexy reporter who sees a story in both men. What ensues is a hectic mix of startlingly violent action scenes (with numerous women and children being bloodily killed for "realistic" effect), insipid plotting with some truly inane dialogue, and sledge-hammer Hollywood messages strewn about in order to remind you that you're watching an "important" picture. Truth be told, I enjoyed the beautiful, glossy cinematography by the extremely talented Eduardo Serra (Unbreakable, The Girl with a Peal Earring), the excellent editing of the action scenes by ace editor Steven Rosenbloom (Pearl Harbor, The Last Samurai) and the generally sumptuous production values. The action sequences are excitingly staged and realistically rendered, especially the complete destruction of a town with multiple RPG missiles and numerous explosions. And DiCaprio is commanding from first frame to last, coming into his own as a masculine action-star in both this film and the far, far better The Departed. But I grew irritated with director Zwick, who has made some excellent movies in the past (Glory, Courage Under Fire, The Last Samurai). Here, he's closer to the work he did on The Siege, another asinine action adventure that wanted to be about something important and timely (domestic terrorism in that film) so badly, but instead relied on cliché after cliché, much like Blood Diamond ultimately does. The relationship with DiCaprio and Connolly goes nowhere after extensive set-up, which is a bit of an annoyance. And while Archer makes some morally questionable decisions along the ride, his denouement is tired and unbelievable. Still, while not a perfect movie, like all of Zwick's work, it does entertain. And it does have good intentions and a noble, if slightly bombastic, spirit.

a soft 3 stars out of 4

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