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Blood Diamond
Threatening to keep Christmas shoppers home this year
Blood Diamond
Leonardo DiCaprio Stars in "The Blood Diamond".
OPENING WEEKEND: $25,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $105,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

July 17th, 2006: In a chaotic, civil war-ridden Sierra Leone of the late 1990s, a South African mercenary named Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is searching for a second chance he never thought he would have. While in prison for smuggling, he learns of a simple fisherman named Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) and his remarkable find. Apparently, while being forced to work in the diamond fields, Vandy discovered a rare and priceless pink diamond. The fisherman, knowing the value of what he had stumbled into, has hidden the precious stone. The two men’s fates soon intertwine as Danny needs the stone to settle a conflict with the local diamond-mining syndicate and Solomon needs it to help save his son, who had been forced into a rebel force known as the Revolutionary United Front army. Together, with the help of an idealistic American journalist named Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), the men trek across rebel territory to recover the piece.

What to Expect: Director Edward Zwick is known for making handsome pictures that fit well within Hollywood’s grand mold. It may be impossible to find a more gorgeous film that still manages to come off as a disappointment due to its excessive melodrama than Zwick’s Legends of the Fall. His last feature, The Last Samurai, starred Tom Cruise in another rousing, but somewhat pompous story for the filmmaker. His greatest achievement to date continues to be the 1989 Civil War epic Glory, which earned several Oscar nominations and won Denzel Washington his first Academy Award for best supporting actor. Although his newest feature will utilize the instability in Africa during the late 1990s as the context, the movie does appear to be a bit of a departure for Zwick, who typically thrives with war epics. The Blood Diamond appears to have more in common with a heist thriller than it does with another ambitious war blockbuster.

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Zwick has worked with many superstars in the past and Leonardo DiCaprio eases into the lead role to become the director’s latest go-to guy. As a smuggler that specializes in the sale of “conflict diamonds,” DiCaprio is gunning for another flawed protagonist. Without a doubt, he is an excellent enough actor to pull off any role, but his boyish looks sometimes take away from macho roles in films like Gangs of New York. Hopefully, the part will not require him to be as hardened of a personality in The Blood Diamond. There was some concern for the superstar a few months back when DiCaprio was taken to a hospital after he slipped and fell awkwardly on set, injuring his knee. Fortunately, the damage was not serious and the actor was back filming just a couple of days later.

Together with DiCaprio, Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), one of the most balanced actresses of this decade, should give the movie a serious one-two punch. Unsurprisingly, her character becomes smitten with DiCaprio’s character. Her role doesn’t look terribly impressive on paper, but I’m sure she will have plenty to add. Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator) can always be relied upon in any supporting role, although I doubt the average viewer would be able to connect his name to his picture. I must admit that I’m still not certain how to pronounce his name.

The big controversy, which will continue to follow the film right up until its release, revolves around the central subject matter. The African “conflict diamonds” are a well-documented source of income for dictators that wage wars throughout the continent. Profits from sales of “conflict diamonds,” or “blood diamonds” as they are also called, fund drug cartels and terrorist cells. By focusing on this aspect of the diamond industry and by illustrating the connection between African civil wars and “conflict diamond” profits, The Blood Diamond will bring the issue into the forefront of public consciousness. Needless to say, the diamond industry is more than a little concerned. The De Beers Corporation, which controls the vast majority of the diamond business, has publicly expressed its reservation. Industry executives are building a massive campaign to counter the film’s content. Basically, since the film is scheduled to come out during the holiday season, everyone seems to be worried that its message will affect the gem’s popularity during Christmas shopping. Diamond industry officials claim that “conflict diamond” trade is essentially a thing of the past ever since a certification system called the Kimberley Process was instituted in the year 2000. Opponents say otherwise, but there have been rumors of negotiations between diamond companies and Warner Brothers to call attention to the system in the movie. I’m not sure how that will work if the film is set in 1999.

As far as the controversy is concerned, I don’t think the diamond industry has anything to worry about. Much like with The Da Vinci Code, I sense a similar wave of sensationalism from the media and a relative indifference from the public. Like that star-filled Hollywood blockbuster, The Blood Diamond will be first and foremost a fictionalized thriller and is not likely to be heavy on politics or messages, other than by calling some attention to them. Filmed on location in South Africa and Mozambique, it will focus on a region in the midst of a horrific war, but probably as a captivating context for what will turn out to be a standard Hollywood thriller. Interestingly, the plot outline bears a striking resemblance to the uneven Romancing the Stone sequel, Jewel of the Nile. In this case, DiCaprio has the Michael Douglas part, Connelly has the Kathleen Turner part, and Hounsou is the jewel. The entire campaign by diamond industry executives sounds more like an attempt to attract some new customers rather than to keep old ones.

In Conclusion: Just like with The Da Vinci Code, any negative publicity is only likely to help the film perform well at the box office. It’s not like it needs much assistance anyway with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role. I believe it will satisfy the thrill seekers and not necessarily the conspiracy theorists in the audience. I wouldn’t expect Da Vinci Code like numbers, but The Blood Diamond should do well.

Similar Titles: Catch Me If You Can, The Last Samurai, Romancing the Stone, Jewel of the Nile, National Treasure
December 8th, 2006 (wide)
March 20th, 2007 (DVD)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Edward Zwick

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou, Arnold Vosloo, Stephen Collins, Michael Sheen

Total: 163 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Drama, Suspense

Click here to view site

Rated R for strong violence and language






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