Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: "Blood Diamond" Has Strong Leads in DiCaprio and Hounsou (Happy B'day, Leonardo DiCaprio)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 67 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Blood Diamond (2006)
Running time: 143 minutes (2 hours, 23 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence and language
DIRECTOR: Edward Zwick
WRITERS: Charles Leavitt; from a story by C. Gaby Mitchell and Charles Leavitt
PRODUCERS: Edward Zwick, Marshall, Herskovitz, Paula Weinstein, Graham King, and Gillian Gorfil
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eduardo Serra (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Steven Rosenblum
2007 Academy Award nominee


Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Sheen, Arnold Vosloo, David Harewood, Basil Wallace, Ntare Mwine, Jimi Mistry, and Kagiso Kuypers

Set during Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war in 1999, director Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond blends challenging themes, social awareness, and riveting entertainment into a rip-roaring story about two different African men on a common quest. Along the way, Zwick creates a lovely thriller out of the devastating chaos of civil war in a Third World country.

While imprisoned, Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), an ex-mercenary from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) turned diamond smuggler, discovers that fellow inmate Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) may have found a large, rare pink diamond. Rebels had taken Solomon from his family and forced him to work in their diamond fields where he found the extraordinary gem. Solomon hid the diamond in hopes of retrieving it and using it to help his family escape their war torn country. Now, Solomon will also have to find the diamond to save his son, Dia (Kagiso Kuypers), who was taken by rebels and brainwashed into becoming a murderous child soldier.

Enter idealistic American journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), in Sierra Leone to uncover the truth about conflict diamonds – diamonds used to finance war. Archer and Solomon have formed a reluctant partnership, with the former guiding the latter back to the buried diamond. Maddy uses her journalistic credentials to help the duo embark on a dangerous track through rebel held territory, although each member of this intrepid trio has his or her own agenda. Maddy wants the journalistic expose. Danny wants the diamond that will help him to finally leave Africa. Solomon is seeking something far more precious – his son.

Zwick turns in one of the top directorial efforts of 2006. He dresses his powerful polemic into a breathtakingly handsome travelogue through Africa, whose striking beauty is marred by horrific and mind-numbing violence. He creates a drama as engaging as any other about civil war, but Zwick makes it into an international social cause – to close the market for conflict diamonds. Zwick grabs the viewer by the heart with his gut-wrenching action and explosive violence. Then, he squeezes your heart to wring out the tears at the sight of such misery and despair and also at the sight of such devotion and kindness amidst the cruelty.

It helps that Zwick has a fine screenplay and story that is of the same epic proportions at just under two-and-a-half hours as a movie over three hours long. And the characters are so rich and well formed that even the script’s preachy dialogue that tends to show up sounds so much better coming out of the mouths of highly skilled actors. The cast brings a stunning sense of authenticity to the roles. For some of them, I could almost believe that they are the characters in the film.

Right now, I’m having a hard time believing that Leonardo DiCaprio has ever been better. He takes the whole cloth of the screenplay and creates in Danny Archer a real, living and breathing person. To hell with those who say that his white African dialect was weird. It sounds so real coming from him. He is Danny Archer; it’s in every word he says, every move he makes, and even in his eyes.

Djimon Hounsou isn’t very far behind. He is rapidly revealing that he is a great dramatic actor with the kind of power and stage presence for which we’ve usually only credit British actors of the Shakespearean stage of having. Hounsou is magnificent. I could make a movie just with him… on a stage empty of props and sets. Jennifer Connelly starts off rough, but her performance grows into the film just as Maddy Bowen starts to really feel Africa.

It’s great that Blood Diamond will make people aware of conflict diamonds, but the drama is so good that the film’s social conscious gets lost behind the beautiful fiction and sweeping storytelling. Blood Diamond is that thing for which movie lovers hope when they go to the theatre – a film with winning characters, a magnificent setting, and a great story. What more is there to say? It’s all on screen.

10 of 10

2007 Academy Awards: 5 nominations: “Best performance by an actor in a leading role” (Leonardo DiCaprio), “Best performance by an actor in a supporting role” (Djimon Hounsou), “Best achievement in editing” (Steven Rosenblum), “Best achievement in sound editing” (Lon Bender), and “Best achievement in sound mixing” (Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, and Ivan Sharrock)

2007 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Leonardo DiCaprio)

2007 Black Reel Awards: 1 win: “Best Supporting Actor” (Djimon Hounsou)

2007 Image Awards: 1 win: “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Djimon Hounsou); 1 nomination: “Outstanding Motion Picture”

Monday, April 23, 2007

No comments:

Post a Comment