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8.2.07

Film: Blood Diamond

Leonard DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond, directed by Edward ZwickThings are easier to get done in Hollywood. Someone worries about how profits from the diamond trade are being used to fund civil wars. Someone else writes a script about Sierra Leone, with a nice supporting role for a talented African actor (Djimon Hounsou, whom you may recognize from Amistad and Gladiator), a family man, with a nice physique. You get Leonardo DiCaprio to play the lead, a devilish mercenary with a heart of gold and an unidentifiable accent (Australia? Jamaica? Minnesota? -- a "Sith Iffrican iccent" as Peter Bradshaw put it in The Guardian), and a pretty actress like Jennifer Connelly to play the tough journalist who brings him around. A rapper creates a song for the credits ("Fling down your bling bling"). As a result, somewhere in Orange County, a rich woman has a clean conscience spending six figures on more diamonds. Members of the Academy feel good about themselves at the ceremony as one actor or both receive awards. Voilà! they have solved the "conflict diamond" problem.

Other Reviews:

Manohla Dargis | David Denby | The Guardian | Le Monde | Le Figaro | Washington Post | Rotten Tomatoes

The fact that Blood Diamond is a political cause masquerading as a movie is the only thing that can explain the prominence of this mediocre thriller among the year's Oscar nominations. Director Edward Zwick has made two beautiful, powerful movies -- Glory and Courage under Fire -- as well as a handful of turkeys (Legends of the Fall, The Last Samurai, The Siege, About Last Night). This one, with an original screenplay by Charles Leavitt, is often beautifully shot (cinematography by Eduardo Serra, who has been shooting films for years in France, including the exquisite La Veuve de Saint-Pierre) and features some good, if not outstanding performances from the cast. However, in the extra 40 minutes or so that the film struggles also to be a documentary about Sierra Leone, its preachiness tired me.

As Thomas Sotinel noted in Le Monde, the film's do-good message is obscene, given that it cost $100 million to make Blood Diamond (as we learned in Tristram Shandy, it's all in the -- mostly unnecessary -- battle scenes), when the 3.5 million inhabitants of Sierra Leone exist on a GDP of only $700 million. In fact, some people in Sierra Leone are not happy about the impact the film may have on the legitimate diamond industry and on the appeal of their country to tourists. Blood Diamond is up for two major awards, Best Actor for DiCaprio (presumably for shifty glances and obsessive smoking) and Best Supporting Actor for Hounsou (for a lot of eye-popping and screaming that veers dangerously toward the absurd). Neither nomination makes any sense to me.

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