CINEMA: by Jerome Deegan (reviewer)News Weekly
Heroism amidst inhumanity - Blood Diamond
, February 17, 2007
Jerome Deegan reviews Blood Diamond.The horrifying violence depicted in Blood Diamond — a film directed by Edward Zwick and nominated for five 2007 Academy Awards — reflects the real and tragic events of the civil war in Sierra Leone during the 1990s.
|Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio)|
and Vandy (Djimon Hounsou)
Readers will recall Max Teichmann's recent piece on this subject in his article, "Diamonds are an African's worst friend", (News Weekly
, January 20, 2007).
Much of this violence in Sierra Leone was fuelled and financed by the mining and sale of "conflict diamonds", manually extracted from the earth by forcibly conscripted slave labour overseen by gangs of murderous militia.
In the film, caught up in this situation is fisherman Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) whose family has been captured and driven from their village. Vandy is sent to a diamond mine; his son Dia to a militia unit where he is brainwashed and made into a child-soldier.
This process is gruesomely illustrated in the boy's "coming of age" as a soldier, when he and his companions are forced to massacre unarmed victims.
This hostile, inhuman setting is mercifully offset by the truly heroic love of Vandy for his son, the child-soldier. His pursuit of the militia who took his son and his absolute refusal to give up the quest, despite overwhelming odds, is inspirational.Family man
He is the family man par excellence — grounded in and totally committed to his family, intelligent and courageous to an almost superhuman degree.
While enslaved at the mine, he finds a large pink diamond and hides it, intending to escape and retrieve it at a later date so as to facilitate the rescue of his family.
His cynical partner in this recovery enterprise is Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a Zimbabwean mercenary (we used to call them "soldiers of fortune", a more agreeable but nevertheless deceptive description). Archer is cooperating with Vandy on condition that he (Archer) gets the rare gem.
Archer is a case-hardened character whose military background and local knowledge equip him to lead Vandy in the extremely hazardous attempt to find the diamond. Archer sees it as his "passport" to "escape" from this war-torn, devastated country.
In their path lie various parties determined to have the diamond for themselves, the militia leader who observed Vandy hiding the diamond and who, like Archer, wants to "escape", and Archer's former military commander, whose ruthlessness is the appalling equal of that of the militia's.
At the place where they recover the diamond, Vandy and Archer are forced to engage in a deadly confrontation with the militia and its leader. They also have to deal with Solomon's deluded son, the child-soldier. Vandy's compassionate fatherhood is tested to the extreme in this moving scene.
Now the race begins. Archer has organised a pick-up by light plane at a certain place on a pre-arranged day and time. With the military in hot pursuit, the question is: will they make it?
The very lightly developed possibility of romance between Archer and the female journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) is more convincing of real human emotion than the usual gymnastics that are sickeningly presented as "making love".
At least Archer, who was seriously traumatised as a child in witnessing the murder of his parents, has the somewhat redeeming quality of courage in the face of the enemy in seeking to deliver his part of the bargain with Vandy.
Is it possible to describe this film as entertainment, given that it presents such awful realities? I think so. It is a fast-moving, colourful and riveting adventure/drama that is both absorbing and informative.
Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou have been nominated for the 2007 Academy Awards (Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively). They certainly deserve recognition for their credible, skilful performances.— film reviewed by Jerome Deegan.