You may or may not remember the crisis in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s. It was one of that endless stream of African horror stories, a little after Rwanda and Somalia, a little before Darfur.
There were a few particularly ghastly things about Sierra Leone. The rebels had the habit of abducting children, brainwashing them, feeding them drugs and giving them guns. They were also fans of chopping off limbs.
Still, as a jaded journalist in this movie says, “Same old story. Government bad, rebels worse. Nobody gives a fu*k.”
Which pretty much summed up the attitude of most people in the West – except the politicians, the activists - and gem merchants. For Sierra Leone has diamonds. A lot of diamonds.
Blood Diamond is the story of the civil war in Sierra Leone and how one particular stone affects the lives of a local fisherman (Djimon Honsou) desperate to find his family, an American war journalist (Jennifer Connelly), a Zimbabwean smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a large number of ruthless men.
If Blood Diamond really were a gem, it would be a valuable but flawed one. It is well shot on gorgeous locations and tells a powerful story. But it is too earnest and, at times, over-the-top. It could have made its points better if it told it with more subtlety and restraint.
But there’s much more that’s good in it than bad. Honsou has a deep, humble nobility in him – if anyone’s read Aphra Behn’s ‘Orinookoo’, he’d be the perfect person to play the prince. While DiCaprio gives an even better performance than he did in The Departed. As the uncaring anti-hero he is both appealing and appalling. And, like Honsou, he delivers one great speech. It is these that probably clinched them their Oscar nominations. My only criticism of DiCaprio is that his accent seems a bit forced, but my South African-born friend Sarah (whose comment follows this review) tells me he did it well.
To sum Blood Diamond up, it is a somewhat overwrought but also very moving film. A lesser jewel, but well worth seeing.