| The Red Right Hand
Set in Sierra Leone, 1999, Zwick's latest cinematic contribution follows a simple fisherman, Solomon Vandy [Hounsou], robbed of his family, home and sent to work in the valleys, digging for diamonds. Before everyone is arrested, Solomon comes across a large pink diamond. In fear of being shot, he quickly buries it. In prison he attracts the attention of Danny Archer [DiCaprio], diamond smuggler and all-round anti-hero bastard. Once on the outside, Archer agrees to help Solomon find his family in exchange for the hidden diamond - the honesty of his intentions still hang in the ether. Teaming up every now-and-then with brash young American reporter Maddy Bowen [Connelly], our two heroes make there way around the refugee camps and finally into the jungle. The film opens with a rather unpleasant scene, showing the RUF kidnapping children and cutting the arms off of men. Shortly after this there seems to be an odd twenty minute transitional period; almost as if the work experience kid was allowed to do the editing. The acting is all extremely powerful and well-done but it becomes clear early on that Jennifer Connelly's character is not really necessary. The tension between Connelly and DiCaprio is enjoyable to watch but is a little unrewarding; there's no time for them to have any proper relationship and Maddy can't trek with Solomon and Archer through the jungle so she just pops up when border problems occur. Unlike the clean-cut Solomon, Archer has a nice character arc and illustrates another side to the horrors of a post-apartheid Africa. The Afrikaner accent is one that I've never really been able to get my head around, I can hear it's a mix of Dutch and English but it just sounds foreign to me. I know that must sound ridiculous but it's just something I can't get. Point being, it's an extremely difficult accent for an actor to master or even emulate without sounding like a complete moron. Oddly enough, DiCaprio manages to pull it off with an impressive ease.
Zwick is one of those gifted directors who can't help but make solid politically and emotionally charged films with an exceptional degree of success. Unfortunately, he's also cursed with a lack of foresight and tends to get bogged down with lengthy films and vagrant plots. Blood Diamond is a movie with an important message but fearing the public won't be interested in a documentary about war-torn Africa, Charles Leavitt wrote a script littered with heart-stopping action scenes. As our two leads run down the broken down streets of Sierra Leone, bullets rip through the air around them, rocket-propelled grenades pillow long tunnels of smoke overhead and throughout there's a guy in the centre of the front row slurping on a pepsi and cramming popcorn down his neck screaming, "That’s so cool!" Therein lies the problem; this is a very cool action film with a weighty theme. Sometimes genres can be paired beautifully, Romantic Comedies, Science Fiction Horror flicks, Period Thriller etc. Other marriages have more of a struggle and although various titles have proven themselves, there is still a conflict between the two styles; generally, in a conflict of this kind only one can come out on top.
Lacking the political punch of Syriana and the user effect of Traffic, Blood Diamond falls short of what it's aiming to achieve, authenticated by the happy ending to an on-going struggle. There are, however, plenty of positive points to take into consideration. The whole film is expertly executed as Zwick keeps the film rolling on neatly, the cinematography is beautiful throughout and a subtle sense of intrigue floods the screen for the entire duration. Something that bugged me at the end was the nature of the film. I understand that it's a travesty and needs to be told, I understand that the public eye must be opened (maybe with the help of this film) but why are you telling us? The companies are the ones who supply and trade in diamonds, the public just pretend to know what they are talking about when they use words like size, colour and clarity. The only real way to stop the problem and find out where your diamond comes from is to remove them all from the international market, which would probably end up damaging the world economy. One particular quote from the film rang through my head as Zwick’s final on-screen lecture faded in to view, "It might be enough to make people cry if they read it, maybe even write a cheque but it's not going to be enough to make it stop"
26th January 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
Whilst travelling with a truck full of journalists, Archer and Solomon come across a jeep, overturned in the road. The passengers had been shot by the RUF but a young boy was still alive. The photographers scramble from the truck and huddle in a semi-circle around the wreckage, desperately snapping photos but it's only Solomon who actually does something to help the boy. Another nod towards the futile nature of the foreign media: their intentions may be good but all they want is a story.
DiCaprio proved himself in The Departed with a phenomenal performance and unlike so many branching young actors this film proves that there's no turning back to the sappy teenage roles he started with. DiCaprio can now deliver a lead performance with immense credibility and has become more than a studio-hired pretty face for the girls.
"Sometimes I wonder, will God ever forgive us for what we've done to each other? Then I look around and I realise God left this place a long time ago"
In A Few Words:
"A moving story that needed to be told by a skilled director but continual flaws devalue this diamond"