Monday, January 01, 2007

Blood Diamond

Catch Me If You Can

Blood Diamond marks the first 2007 movie for me, and what a blast it was, surprisingly. Directed by Edward Zwick, you'll probably enjoy the movie if you liked his previous movies - The Siege, Courage Under Fire, and The Last Samurai.

This movie touches on the bling-bling industry, one which feeds the demand for girls' best friend. It demonstrates the seedier side of the industry, makes allegations about the dubious operations of associated conglomerates, the plight of those sold into the greed, the victims of those who have, basically everything negative of the industry, right up to the artificial control of the diamond's exorbitant price due to a control and restriction of supply. No wonder the big boys earn money, and the little pawns at the bottom of the chain slog their lives for it. Makes you think twice about the source of the next stone you buy.

Leonardo DiCaprio, like it or not, has his fair share of acting accolades, and what he did for Blood Diamond is no exception, garnering him a nomination for this year's Golden Globe, against himself in The Departed as well. Here, he stars as an Indiana Jone-ish character who belongs to the other end of the archeological spectrum, that of an illegal smuggler. It's an interesting character, as his morals as greasy as those money greased palms, he speaks with an African twang, and his allegiance switches to whosoever provides him the greatest possible advantage. As Zimbawean Danny Archer, he's tough, sly, no nonsense and full of smarts. A roguish Indy Jones if you deck him out with a fedora, and definitely one of the more memorable characters DiCaprio played, given the character's shady past and present.

In contention here is a rare and huge pink diamond (which naturally spelt trouble), found by fisherman Solomon Vandy (played by Djimon Hounsou), one of the last survivors of his Sierra Leone tribe which was wiped out by militants. Fate brought Archer and Vandy together, and they must reluctantly journey to retrieve it - for the former, as his ticket out of a botched job and to get out of the continent, and for the latter, a means to seek out his family. Added to the fray is reporter Maddy Bowen (the beautiful Jennifer Connelly), who is in Africa to seek out the big story on the dark side of diamond prospecting.

The movie will definitely bring about an awareness to the diamond issue, those stones which were obtained through illegal or exploitative means. Similar to Hotel Rwanda which highlighted the plight of those subjected to ethnic cleansing, in Blood Diamonds, the UN again are given the flak with its portrayal of unhelpful officers, as millions of refugees suffer under civil war conditions - that of militants running villages to the ground and the massacre of thousands in cold blood. The government troops too are also shown as inept and ineffective, often partaking in atrocities themselves. In effect, the movie becomes a summary in its explanation of the corruption so permeated in life in TIA (This Is Africa).

But no worries, the talky bits are excellently blended together with the set action pieces, and together with the wonderful score by James Newton Howard, provided a very balanced narrative, taking turns to explain itself, or to dive right into massive gun battles. You would probably not feel its length, and there are enough graphic violence in the movie to satisfy anyone's blood lust.

However, what's more harrowing instead are scenes in which the militants train the young on guerilla warfare, indoctrinating their impressionable minds with lies and empty promises. Somehow the images of kids holding AKs never go down well with me, and during these scenes, I actually cringed. Watch and you'll know what I mean.

I think amongst the movies opening this week, Blood Diamond will be the one I'll recommend, for its excellent characterization, and its unsophisticated delivery of thought provoking plot lines over some amazing action sequences.

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