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Blood Diamond is a decent adventure movie with a social conscience.

Treasure of Sierra Leone

Solomon's been rustled into slave labor searching for diamonds
Solomon’s been rustled into slave labor searching for diamonds

Set a few years ago during the height of conflict in Sierra Leone, Blood Diamond immerses itself in the controversy surrounding “conflict diamonds,” those diamonds sold by guerillas to fund their cause during the country’s civil war.

As news breaks about slaves losing limbs by the butchery of merciless guerillas while searching for diamonds, the “legitimate” diamond industry, headed in the film by the Van De Kaap cartel (and clearly a play on De Beers), works to downplay the proliferation of the blood diamonds.

With that as the story’s background, Blood Diamond brings in Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator) as a soldier of fortune looking for a way out of his native Africa.

Danny’s ticket arrives in the form of Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator). Solomon’s been separated from his wife, son and daughter and has been rustled into slave labor searching for diamonds. His young son, Dia, has also been forced into servitude as a boy soldier.

Solomon’s mission is to reunite with his family, and his hopes are pinned on a large pink diamond he smuggles away between his toes and buries for safekeeping.

Through a series of circumstances, Danny and Solomon cross paths, and their fates become codependent.

Diamond in the Rough

Added to the mix is the journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly, Dark Water). Without a touch of subtlety, Maddy’s character serves as the traditional idealistic, altruistic journalist searching for truth and justice. The question arises about whether journalists simply exploit the situation in the name of getting a story, but Maddy earnestly counters that Americans would never buy a ring if they knew somebody lost a hand in order to make that diamond happen.

While her character is certainly a gung-ho reporter, Connelly does a fine job of rounding the character’s edges and bringing emotional depth to what easily could have been strictly a stereotype.

Quickly enough, the lives of all three main characters intertwine.

Danny hits on Maddy at a bar in Sierra Leone, but their contradictory goals and ideals immediately set them at odds. Of course, with two beautiful people like Connelly and DiCaprio on screen, their contrast leads to attraction.

To director Edward Zwick’s credit, the tension between the two is credible and not entirely predictable. They are two strong characters fleshed out by two solid performers.

For Danny, Maddy could be seen as just another pawn in his mission to get out of Africa. Or maybe she’s a chance for stability unknown in his life since early childhood.

For Maddy, Danny’s a rebel, dangerous and not to be trusted. But he’s also something of a lost soul whose life could, perhaps, be turned around with a little reasoning.

Diamonds are Forever

Once all three characters start to work with — and at times against — each other, Blood Diamond picks up a considerable amount of momentum. Thanks to the performances from all three leads, the movie is quite watchable as an adventure even though it’s a bit too tidy in terms of the issues it confronts and, yes, to a degree exploits.

The tidiness comes in the guise of a very Hollywood ending. It’s not that everybody lives happily ever after per se, but their stories get wrapped up in one glossy sequence that’s fit for packaging in a nice little Tiffany box.

Nonetheless, the existence of Blood Diamond is a good thing. It revisits a controversy that has been mostly left alone thanks to the Kimberley Process, a certification scheme adopted in 2002 in an effort to eradicate conflict diamonds from the marketplace.

That’s all well and good, but conflict diamonds — “blood diamonds” — still make their way to the market and Blood Diamond serves as a reminder of obstacles the industry is still tackling.

The movie questions one other aspect of the diamond business, too, namely, the marketplace itself. Do the few major diamond suppliers work to create an artificially limited supply of diamonds in order to keep prices unnecessarily high?

It’s a question that has been asked in the past and Blood Diamond most definitely provides its own answer.

That answer is wrapped into the film’s Hollywood ending. But even though the conclusion is far too neat, it does make for a good piece of storytelling as three disparate lives blend into one.

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