Blood from a stone

“Blood Diamond,” the latest fusion of Hollywood entertainment and African-condition tragedy, presents us with the matter of diamonds-for-arms trading, a practice that, while reportedly curbed now, helped further the civil war that brutally raged in 1990s Sierra Leone. Surely, that’s a terrific topic either for the sort of “issue drama” that studios tout at statuette time or for a rough-and-tumble adventure set on the photogenic continent. But while director Edward Zwick displays both intentions, neither plays out satisfactorily.

Echoing fare such as “Hotel Rwanda,” the film contains a backdrop of suffering and characters whose transformations counteract the grimness. It’s indeed a Zwick flick: conventional entertainment laced with worthy themes but ruined by falseness and mediocrity, from the director of “The Last Samurai” and “Glory.”

Set mostly in Sierra Leone, the story unites opportunistic white Zimbabwean smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) and decent Mende fisherman Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) in a symbiotic attempt to benefit from a humongous diamond Solomon’s hidden. Viewing the stone as his ticket out of plunderland, Danny convinces Solomon to give him the gem in return for his assistance in finding Solomon’s war-scattered family. Key to their plan is American journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly). She helps them reach rebel territory in exchange for their testimony for a story she’s writing on “conflict” diamonds and their trail — arms, carnage, Western profits.

Basically, everybody’s being used, and Danny and Solomon are running for their lives.

In bits, the movie works. Zwick includes powerful images of the horrors of war. More amusingly, we get cute banter and thugs who melt when asked to pose for magazine covers.

But this is too often either a popcorn flick with insufficient pop or a social drama that doesn’t shake us like it should.

There’s heartbreaking stuff — Solomon’s preteen son being converted into a guerilla; rebels chopping off captives’ hands — but Zwick and screenwriter Charles Leavitt weaken things by heaping on mushy histrionics surrounding Solomon’s family. Solomon’s a noble-native caricature. Callous Danny experiences predictable redemption. Connelly’s idealistic Maddy acts as the filmmakers’ preachy mouthpiece.

DiCaprio and Hounsou fare better. DiCaprio delivers a winning movie-star turn that combines old-fashioned adventure heroism with contemporary amorality. Hounsou, is strong, too, and outshines DiCaprio in the lengthy emotive passages that Zwick, apparently fond of swollen anguish, supplies.

None of the above is boring, but the film amounts to tear-jerking over deeper wham. In short, cubic zirconium.

Credits

Blood Diamond **

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers

Written by Charles Leavitt

Directed by Edward Zwick

Rated R

Running time 2 hours, 18 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police Officer Nicholas Buckley, pictured here in 2014, is now working out of Bayview Station. <ins>(Department of Police Accountability records)</ins>
SF police return officer to patrol despite false testimony

A San Francisco police officer accused of fabricating a reason for arresting… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton announced that funding would be diverted from the police budget toward the black community in June 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City directs $60 million toward Black community services and housing support

San Francisco released new details Thursday for how it plans to spend… Continue reading

The Stud, The City’s oldest gay bar which is vacating its longtime home at Ninth and Harrison streets after more than 50 years, on Thursday, May 21, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City’s nightlife recovery fund approved but struggling business owners fear relief may come too late

As San Francisco’s nightlife scene approaches nearly a year of a complete… Continue reading

Riordan Crusaders versus St. Ignatius Wildcats at JB Murphy Field on the St. Ignatius Prepatory High School Campus on September 14, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner)
State allows high school sports to resume, but fight is far from over

For the first time since mid-March 2020, there is hope for high… Continue reading

Most Read