At one point in Blood Diamond, Danny (Leonardo DiCaprio), Solomon (Djimon Hounsou*), and Maddy (Jennifer Connelly) come upon a nice place that has happy children playing soccer on a well manicured lawn with a fatherly looking man coming out to greet them.
This is the point in the movie where I remembered how to breathe again.
For the rest of my 150 minutes in the theatre, I held my breath, clung to my seat, and averted my eyes. That's how good Blood Diamond is. It's up-in-your-face, people-dying-horribly, innocent-children-getting-corrupted intense. It is so harsh at times that I asked myself why I was so glued to the screen. The answer? It's an amazingly good movie.
Do not mistake Blood Diamond for being simply an "issue film." A story like this can come very close to being a one long public service announcement. "Open your eyes, stupid Americans! Look at what's going on in Africa!" And, for a few minutes, Blood Diamond does step into this realm, but thankfully, it never lingers. This movie is about two men who need something, and one woman who really does give a damn. It may have taken place in Sierra Leone and Guinea, but the story isn't really about the civil war, it's about these people surviving it. And there are enough explosions, shooting, running, and high-speed camera work for this to sit on the shelf next to any respectable action movie.
Even though the story is the driving force of this film, let us not forget the 5 star performances. In my book, it goes without saying that Hounsou and Connelly are great actors, but DiCaprio has always been hit or miss for me. He relishes in playing the troubled character so much that I quickly grow weary. It turns out, though, that this troubled character worked well for him. I was a little iffy about of his Rhodesian accent at first, but it quickly fell into step with the character, and I was just watching the story play out instead of listening for him to let the accent slip.
If you're looking for an edge-of-your-seat action film with a message, this is the movie for you. Your heart will ache for the young boys you see fall so easily into the R.U.F. life. You'll feel angry about all the war and corruption. And it may make you go home and read up on the corrupt diamond trade in Africa.
Just like most Hollywood "issue films," there is relief at the end, but it's more realistic than satisfying, and for me, this is the best kind of ending.
*The correct pronunciation of Mr. Hounsou's name, for those who are curious, is "Jie-mon Hahn-soo."