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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Hollywood Rewind | Blood Diamond: Worthy performances fall prey to poor storytelling

While Leonardo DiCaprio is a credible actor, it was Djimon Hounsou who had my complete and unwavering attention. His eyes did most of the emoting, especially during the sequences where he spoke of his son or interacted with his family.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
Updated: May 5, 2020 1:14:31 pm
hollywood rewind Blood Diamond was helmed by Edward Zick.

Blood Diamond movie cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Michael Sheen
Blood Diamond movie director: Edward Zick
Blood Diamond movie rating: 3 stars

The year was 2006. Leonardo DiCaprio had already started experimenting, getting bolder with his choices. And the Edward Zick directorial Blood Diamond, despite not being faultless, was a step in that direction. A political war drama, the film also featured Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou and Michael Sheen in significant parts. In fact, both DiCaprio and Hounsou were nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor category, respectively.

Despite the Oscar noms and the credible performances (minus a wavering Rhodesian accent, courtesy DiCaprio), Blood Diamond suffers from poor storytelling and a bad case of white saviour complex. What makes up for it are the well-etched out characters of DiCaprio and Hounsou. The story runs thus — It is 1999, and Sierra Leone is being systemically destroyed by violent politics. People are being enslaved and forced to harvest diamonds in mines, therefore the name Blood Diamond. Enter Vandy (Hounsou), a native fisherman who perchance finds a pink diamond. From thereon, the struggle begins. Somehow, a Rhodesian army veteran called Danny (DiCaprio) gets involved and plans to use the said diamond to make his escape from the country. The rest of the storyline takes off from here. There are a million balls in the air here — family issues, how media plays up wars and genocides, the politics of harvesting diamonds and precious stones in war-torn areas. Things were bound to get messy, and could have been further botched if filmmaker Zick didn’t have the right actors to play his lead characters.

And while DiCaprio is a credible actor, it was Djimon Hounsou who had my complete and unwavering attention. His eyes did most of the emoting, especially during the sequences where he spoke of his son or interacted with his family. The chemistry that his character shared with DiCaprio’s was also quite tangible. Perhaps, the reason why Djimon could establish that kind of bond with his character was because it was too close to home for him. The artiste himself hails from Benin, a country in West Africa, much like Sierra Leone. And like Vandy, Djimon Hounsou also suffered from poverty and a kind of identity crisis when he was younger.

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During an interview prior to the release of Blood Diamond, the actor had said, “This (film) is extremely personal. I was born in the republic of Benin. And blood diamond affects so many issues — the displacement of the people, there is the issue of child soldiers, exploitation of kids. My character represents every single man trying to survive in Africa.”

Blood Diamond is currently streaming on Netflix and Hotstar.

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