Monday, January 22, 2007

"BLOOD DIAMOND"
Leonardo diCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou

"Freedom, it will cost you everything"

SM Megamall, Cinema 5

Bling Bang


"T.I.A" says one of the characters in this film to Danny Archer (Leonardo diCaprio). Meaning "This is Africa", a continent unfortunately strife with poverty and conflicts. Perfect backdrop for any Hollywood movie. You throw in a leading actor guaranteed to draw in the crowds, spray the movie with explosive action scenes (the louder the better), pepper the dialogue with cliche lines, dangle in a female lead for some romantic angle and introduce "beaucoup bad guys" (as uttered by Bruce Willis in "Tears of the Sun") tata you have the usual plotline of most movies set in Africa. Edward Zwick though decided to up the ante by 'lecturing' us about the ramifications of conflict diamonds. I admit it was quite an eye opener for me whose main source of information about Africa is through either news programs like "Inside Africa" on CNN or movies like "The Constant Gardener", "Hotel Rwanda" and "Sometimes in April".

So even if this film isn't as well crafted as "The Constant Gardener", it does deliver its main message across. Even though it takes more than 2 hours to do so. Fast paced action scenes (really graphic and violent shots of massacres) in the early part of the movie keeps you on the edge of your seat. It mellows down a bit so you can perhaps go take a pee break and return just in time to witness some saving coup de grace in the rather flat ending. Edward Zwick has somehow developed this pattern in most of his movies where he features a sort of Lone Ranger type of hero battling against an entire culture/race or a war. Case in point - Matthew Broderick in "Glory" and Tom Cruise in "The Last Samurai" and now Leo diCaprio in "Blood Diamond"


In the acting department, the actors give credible performances. I've followed Leonardo diCaprio's prolific career since I saw him in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape". A recent article revealed that he wanted to quit acting after he did "Titanic" because he didn't want to be known as some piece of meat adored by the masses. He is more mature now that he has lost his baby fat features. So never mind that his South African accent faltered every now and then, he has what it takes to pull off a wide range of different characters in every films he stars in. I hope he acts in more meaningful roles from now on.

I admired Solomon Vandy's (Djimon Hounsou's character) ever hopeful stance that his beloved Sierra Leone would find peace. His unwavering belief that his son would go to school and become a successful doctor. Despite all the violence and the horrific circumstances of his country being torn apart by civil war and greedy warlords, he still didn't lose faith and his conviction never wavered. Djimon Hounsou has always been a forceful actor, he has a strong screen presence and in this movie, he delivers right on target. Jennifer Connelly is the token female lead added in to conjure up some romantic interlude. She seemed irrelevant. I figure it would have worked just fine if the reporter/journalist was portrayed by a guy. Rather unfortunate because she registers well in most of her roles, maybe she just took this film as a chance to go to Africa and enjoy the scenery and go on a safari or something.

Lastly, I don't think this film would stop people from buying diamonds. But through this movie we were made aware of the harsh conditions of the people involved in mining diamonds. So next time you slip that diamond ring on your finger or wear your sparkling earrings, you should probably utter a silent prayer for the hapless soul who toiled under the blazing sun somewhere in the diamond minefields of Africa. And remember your accessory may be a "Bling Bling" but it strives from a "Bling Bang" industry.

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