Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed) is a South African mercenary who makes a living exploiting the thriving illegal diamond trade in Sierra Leone during the late ’90s. Whether it’s selling weapons to the merciless rebels for the stones or cutting in the more than a little shady military into his deals, Archer does whatever it takes to get by. So when he hears that Solomon Vendy (Dijimon Hounsou, Constantine), a fisherman who was taken from his family and forced to work in the diamond fields, has found and hid a huge diamond, Archer convinces Vendy to help him recover the rare treasure to solve both their problems. Along the way, the pair is aided by jaded journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly, House of Sand and Fog), who’s looking to do something more than just writing sob stories of dying Africans.
From start to finish, Blood Diamond is intense. Director Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) pulls absolutely no punches in showing you just how badly this trade has hit the people of Sierra Leone; whether it’s showing an entire village getting slain or the harsh conditions in which refugees are forced to live in.
The performances from the leads reinforce Zwick’s approach, particularly DiCaprio and Hounsou’s. Giving probably one of, if not, the best performance of his career, DiCaprio juggles perfectly the cold shell that Archer puts up with his rarely seen humanity. But it’s Hounsou who really steals the show. Exuding grief, rage and even unfaltering hope, Hounsou brings his character to life, handling extremely emotional moments astoundingly well. Vendy’s reunion with most of his family at a refugee camp stands out as one of the most powerful scenes in the whole film. In fact, don’t be surprised if his performance drives you to tears.
Beautifully brutal, harshly tragic and, all in all, an excellent film, Blood Diamond is, without a doubt, 2006’s compelling surprise.