Friday, December 08, 2006

Blood Diamond - Movie Review

Blood Diamond 2006

An open letter to Edward Zwick, the director of “Blood Diamond”:

Dear Mr. Fucktwit,

Finally, after years of anxious doubt and hushed rumors you have delivered “Blood Diamond” onto the movie screens of the world to reveal that native Africans are being mistreated by rich white men all in the name of corporate greed. We know. We know. It was almost too difficult for us to accept ourselves. We had imagined that the men and women who toiled in the diamond mines and fields were extremely well paid, respected by their employers and lived happily with their families in comfortable bungalows overlooking some crystal clear lake filled with frolicking hippos and trumpeting flamingos.

Jesus H. Christ. Edward Zwick, you are one thick individual. Now, way back in the 1980s, we forgave you for co-creating “Whineysomething”, since it was the Reagan years and forgiveness was often in our heart. When you first doffed your directing jodhpurs and whip to bring us a sitcom quality version of a David Mamet play, casting Demi Moore and Rob Lowe . . . (Oh, Lord. The 80s are coming back to us now like a bad wet dream. Did we really do that much blow? Moving on.) . . . we forgave you again, since your learning annex was network television. Then came “Glory”, which heralded the coming of two great actors, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington in his first Oscar winning role. It also heralded the beginning of the end of your career, for you had suddenly discovered that you could indulge your bleeding heart morality by reinterpreting history via celluloid in a pathetic attempt to make up for mankind’s injustice by churning out kindergarten level morality tales mixed with an overdose of 19th century melodrama not seen onscreen since the days of “The Perils of Pauline”.

At least “Legends of the Fall” had some wonderful Oscar winning cinematography and Brad Pitt. “Courage Under Fire” had Matt Damon. Enough said. But once we had arrived at the horrifically bloated “The Last Samurai” we had officially had enough. “Blood Diamond” is unfortunately no different.

Now, way back before many of you kids were alive there existed another director with a proclivity to trumpet the underdog and shed light on social injustices. His name was Stanley Kramer, and he became famous with such “liberal” thinking films as The Defiant Ones”, “On the Beach”, “Inherit the Wind”, “Judgment at Nuremberg”, “Ship of Fools and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The difference between Stanley Kramer and Edward Zwick is simple. Kramer made good movies. Okay, in the spirit of complete honesty with our readers, none of Kramer’s films would rate on our Greatest Films of All Time List (coming soon, don’t you fear faithful reader), but they are respectable, entertaining dramas that often contain some career best performances from their stellar casts.

You, Edward Zwick manage to drain the very life out of your actors, and it is a near miracle when they survive the pedestrian handling of their respective scripts. Case in point: “Blood Diamond”. Headlined by two talented Oscar nominated actors – Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou and supported by Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly, “Blood Diamond” attempts to tell the tale of diamond miners in Africa whose greed is responsible for the destruction of families, deaths of innocents and corruption on a global scale. It fails in all attempts. Instead of a searing epic take on a very serious subject, it plays more like the lost “Rambo” film wherein Sylvester Stallone suddenly develops a conscience. As if that could ever happen.

Surely, the innocent lives lost in the already devastated nations involved deserve better than this dreck. Each scene begins with a promise of real interest and quickly devolves into hackneyed clichés and retreads of every gun battle you’ve ever seen. Thankfully, the trio of lead actors attempt to compensate with their talent, and almost succeed. Almost.

Leonardo DiCaprio has quickly become one of the most vibrant actors of his generation. We applauded his bravura turn as Howard Hughes in Scorsese’sThe Aviator” and his balls to the wall turn in this years “The Departed”. Here, saddled with a Rhodesian accent so thick you could spread it on toast, he digs deep to try and anchor a rapidly sinking ship. It is to the actor’s credit that he manages to convince the audience rather quickly that he has committed himself completely to the accent, so damn the critics and full speed ahead! We applaud him for his courage. Sadly, for the rest of the film his mockingly self described “soldier of fortune” rarely has a moment to breathe through his constant gun battles and death defying escapes. What little character development occurs is more of a testament to DiCaprio’s acting ability than to the director’s choices.

Djimon Hounsou who nabbed a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his sensitive portrayal of an embittered immigrant with AIDS in Jim Sheridan’s underrated “In America”, comes closest to earning the audiences sympathies with his portrayal of a Sierra Leone native whose life is forever changed by the cruelty of corporate greed. His family life is torn asunder and his village decimated by the heavily armed thugs who force him into a life of slavery mining diamonds. His anger sheathed under a mask of rectitude, his slow boil is the most interesting aspect of this trifling film. When his climactic moment arrives, the level of his anger is fairly biblical. It is the most powerful bit of acting in this film, and belongs to a much better flick. Sad waste of talent.

Jennifer Connelly, who was used so well earlier this year in “Little Children” comes off with the least worthy performance. Now, while we don’t believe that Ms. Connelly is the greatest actress of her generation, neither is she a slouch. We must again turn to the screenwriter and director for blame. For here, they have saddled Jennifer with a completely unbelievable character – a caring journalist. Correction. She doesn’t really have a character to portray, for Miss Connelly has been burdened with the unenviable task of acting as mouthpiece for all of mankind’s inhumanity to man. Hey, Edward . . . instead of calling her character Maddy Bowen, why didn’t you just dub her “Maddy As Helly Exposition”?

And ultimately, that is what helps to harpoon this festering boil of a flick. Speechifying, as we used to call it. Oh, to be sure there are the requisite snippets of relationships shuffled throughout to make us believe we should give a shit. Solomon’s family, who barely register as human beings (Which tragic refugee is his wife again? Oh, that one! No, that one!) are trotted out every twenty minutes to remind us we should be feeling something other than cramps from sitting too long.

The insane attempt to link Leo and Jennifer’s characters in a romantic tryst that we presume develops because she’s the only attractive white woman in the country is a pathetic nod to audience sympathies which by that point are completely dead in the water. And the ridiculous eleventh hour (literally) scene, wherein we learn about the deeply, deeply troubled and torturous childhood of Leo’s character seems to come from an entirely different movie. Why we should care about his childhood, when we hardly care about anything else in this movie is beyond us.

So, in closing Edward we just want to make one thing clear. It is time for you to hang up your director’s cap. Go ahead. Hang it up. Give up the megahorn and your storyboards and go crawl away somewhere and die. Give up the dream. It is officially over. And to our fans, in case we haven’t been perfectly clear. Save yourselves the trouble and do not go see “Blood Diamond”. Go rent “The Defiant Ones” and “Judgment at Nuremberg” – it’ll amount to almost the same storyline, and you will get hours more entertainment value out of it. Bless you all!

Directed by Edward Zwick
Screenplay by Charles Leavitt
Story by Charles Leavitt & C. Gaby Mitchell

Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer
Djimon Hounsou as Solomon Vandy
Jennifer Connelly as Maddy Bowen
Arnold Vosloo as Colonel Coetzee
Kagiso Kuypers as Dia Vandy

Cinematography by Eduardo Serra
Film Editing by Steven Rosenblum
Original Music by James Newton Howard
Costume Design by Ngila Dickson
Production Design by Dan Weil
Art Direction by Peter Wenham
Set Decoration by Olivia Bloch-Lainé



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