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BLOOD DIAMOND

SYNOPSIS:
When the paths of mercenary diamond smuggler Zimbabwe born Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) and fisherman Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) cross in a short prison spell in Sierra Leone, their futures are bound together. Solomon has been forcibly taken from his family and his village to mine diamonds for illegal exportation, and has found a remarkable, giant pink stone, which he hides. News of the find reaches Danny and he engineers to have Solomon lead him to the treasure - his escape ticket from Africa. But Danny isn't the only one aware of the stone. When he meets crusading US journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), trying to uncover the facts, Danny is forced to contemplate his actions. Meanwhile the civil war between rebels and Government forces is killing thousands of innocents and even children are recruited and brainwashed. Solomon agrees to help Danny find the hidden diamond in exchange for his family, but nothing is simple in Africa.

Review by Louise Keller:
Everyone uses everyone in Blood Diamond, a blistering political thriller that scratches furiously in Africa's red soil to reveal what is priceless. The soil is red from blood, we are told and while diamonds, the world's hardest and most valuable precious stones may symbolise love and eternity to many, to those who work the mines in Sierra Leone, the multi-faceted gems symbolise death and terror. To Leonardo DiCaprio's ruthless ex-mercenary Danny Archer and Djimon Hounsou's gentle fisherman Solomon Vandy, partners brought together by circumstance and necessity, the huge, flawless pink diamond at the centre of the story means totally different things. It's the ticket to freedom for Danny, while for Solomon, it is the means with which he can reunite his family. We meet two strong characters and witness two extraordinary performances in a dense and complex film that explores right from wrong and weak from strong.

Killing is a way of life for both Danny and Solomon, but for different reasons. Danny is a real operator, a wheeler dealer who works with people he doesn't trust. Damaged at an early age, Danny knows the ropes and has no qualms to use every means available to him. Solomon, by contrast, is a peaceful family man who will do anything to protect those he loves. Jennifer Connelly's American correspondent Maddy Bowen is an action junkie who thrives on being in a constant state of crisis. Her desire to write a meaningful article that will make a difference is her motivation, and in Danny, she sees at last she has an opportunity. The development of all the relationships is meticulously detailed. The balance of power changes constantly, creating malleable tension.

It's violent, disturbing and the scenes of children being trained to kill, vehemently shocking. Watching the youngsters being brainwashed, blindfolded and told to pull the trigger, is witnessing a shattering loss of innocence. DiCaprio is better than ever, with an unnervingly authentic African accent (I recognize it as I grew up in Rhodesia) and an edgy characterisation that takes us on a wildly emotional journey, while Hounsou slits open his every reserve as he gives his all. There are thrills, double crosses and plenty of opportunities to be enveloped in the lush, dense and harsh African landscape. The story has special resonance in this political climate and Edward Zwick's film has a startling and dramatic effect.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There is significantly more blood than diamonds in Blood Diamond, made from a no doubt justifiably outraged screenplay that hammers home the message about the evil effects of conflict diamonds - stones reaching our bride's fingers at the cost of mutilated bodies, dead women and children, and infants trained to fire machine guns at anyone in their path by ruthless militia. This story is set in the recent past in a now cleaned up Sierra Leone, but there are still instances of it happening.

The socio-political complexities of Africa are the backdrop for the story, and are alluded to several times, although the film tries hard to simplify it for a mass audience. Everyone is a shade complicit, a user of others, but Maddy (Jennifer Connelly) is the least compromised. She and Solomon (Djimon Hounsou) carry the moral weight of the film, one by her innate decency and sense of humanity, the other through his powerful sense of fatherly love. In one scene, Solomon ponders on the terrible things 'his people' do to each other; in another, we see the callous greed of whites that generates the carnage.

These simplified elements are in reality strictures on the film's authenticity, but director Edward Zwick makes use of them as the film's positives, to balance the barbarity that is committed in the conflict zone. Much of the violence is superbly staged and shot, and perhaps too lovingly produced for the camera; yes, the point has to be made and made fiercely, but where do you draw the line? It's a question to discuss and there are probably no right or wrong answers.

Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a superb characterisation as Danny the mercenary whose redemption is what we are hoping for; Hounsou is formidable as the vulnerable, desperate father of a family torn from him; Connelly is all piercing blue eyes and determined decency as the journalist on a crusade. These performances, the film's riveting production design, its music and its evident good intentions help us overlook its flaws - and raise our consciousness, while keeping us glued to our seats.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

BLOOD DIAMOND (MA)
(US, 2006)

CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Sheen, Arnoldo Vosloo, Basil Wallace, Ntare Mwine, Caruso Kuypers, David Harewood

PRODUCER: Edward Zwick, Gillian Gorfil, Marshall Hersokovitz, Graham King, Darrell Roodt, Paula Weinstein

DIRECTOR: Edward Zwick

SCRIPT: Charles Leavitt

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eduardo Serra

EDITOR: Steven Rosenblum

MUSIC: James Newton Howard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dan Weil

RUNNING TIME: 143 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 4, 2007







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