Blood Diamond is an interesting creature. It is a movie whose story is almost entirely overshadowed by the setting of the movie. Blood Diamond came out in 2006 and starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou and was rated R. The story takes place in Sierra Leone while it is wracked with civil war. Djimon Hounsou’s character Solomon Vandy is a fisherman in a village who is taken prisoner, while saving his family, and is forced to work in diamond mines by the rebel forces. While working there, he finds a massive diamond that he hides and buries. However, this does not remain a secret and the diamond is sought after, one who wants it is Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, diamond smuggler Danny Archer. The other is a leader in the rebel forces who wound up seeing Solomon hide the diamond. However, Solomon is more interested in finding his family than pursuing the diamond.
However, as the civil war escalates Solomon is forced together with Danny as they try to survive and escape the sight of a massive battle between the government and the rebels. What results is a sojourn to find Solomon’s family and also reclaim the diamond. Admittedly this is a pretty bare bones summation of the plot, but I think it sets us up enough to talk about some themes and issues within the movie. As always there will be spoilers so if you haven’t watched don’t read forward unless you’re okay with some spoilers.
Honestly, the message of this movie is a bit of a jumbled mess. Some messages are pretty clear like redemption for Archer. After living his life smuggling diamonds and adding fuel to the fire of the conflicts, even if indirectly, his time with Solomon gradually changes him and at the end he makes a great sacrifice for Solomon and his family. While a pretty clear theme, I don’t know, it just winds up seeming pretty insignificant compared to what you see during the movie. The wanton violence and senseless slaughter of people that go on at the hands of both the rebels and government in the movie impacted me a lot more than the regrets of one person. Honestly, in another movie it may have been really engaging to me, but here it just seemed almost a footnote rather than a main theme.
Another theme, I noticed, was about asking what had more value people or diamonds. Solomon is trying to seek his family, and he finds most of them about halfway through the movie. He learns though that his son has been found and taken by the rebels. During this time his son has been indoctrinated and brainwashed by the rebels and is made to do some pretty horrible things. Regardless Solomon is dedicated to finding his son and cares much more about that than finding the diamond. The diamond is just the means to that end for Solomon. Even Archer winds up putting more importance on the lives of Solomon and his son than the diamond when it is all said and done. Archer also reaches this point thanks to Maddy Bowen a journalist that he meets during this time and is seeking to make a difference by exposing blood diamonds, which are diamonds mined in a war zone to raise funds for arms. This is also an overarching question that is posed to the jewelry corporations and the consumer, how much is a diamond really worth? Is it worth the lives of countless people and the implosion of an entire country?
This is where things get murky though. One idea that gets shoehorned into the film is the idea that it is all the consumers, primarily American, fault. If we didn’t have demand for the diamonds then this wouldn’t happen. Maybe it is trying to be an empowering message so that we feel we can have power to stop these atrocities, but honestly it felt really weak. The movie instilled in me a sense of naivety and powerlessness not one of feeling like I could do something about this. How are we able to know where everything we use and buy came from and what the true cost of those items are? I certainly don’t know. Even with the diamond trade a low percentage are believed to be blood diamonds, this doesn’t make it insignificant, but it does make it very hard to find out.
Overall I felt Blood Diamond was a good movie in some sense. However, I found that while I liked the characters their story felt almost lost in the sheer enormity of the setting it was placed in. The scenes depicting the mindless gunning down of people as they were running away, the forced labor, the cutting of limbs of innocent people, and the indoctrination of the children to fight for the rebels left a greater impact on me than the story. An impact that left me feeling very hollow inside and realizing just how sheltered we are in the western world.