Tuesday, March 21, 2017

OVP: Blood Diamond (2006)

Film: Blood Diamond (2006)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly
Director: Edward Zwick
Oscar History: 5 nominations (Best Actor-Leonardo DiCaprio, Supporting Actor-Djimon Hounsou, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

Leonardo DiCaprio has become one of those actors that is hard for me to discuss with other people.  For starters he's one of the rare actors that acts in prestige pictures that people actually seek out.  Outside of Meryl Streep or Tom Hanks, that's not really a thing anymore, at least not in my world.  Usually the movies that people in my life see (save for a select couple of cinephiles) are something like a Ghostbusters or Beauty and the Beast, and discussions of movies that are in awards contention only happen after the actual awards lists are released.

As a result of this, people in my life have opinions of Leo, as do I, but they always want me to side with the "Leo was way overdue" for an Oscar conversation, even when in my head that conversation begins with Glenn Close and ends with Annette Bening.  And that's perhaps because the Academy doesn't seem to have picked the "correct" Leo films in my opinion to cite.  DiCaprio has always felt, to me, like he was at his finest when he was either breezy or vulnerable, or perhaps both.  Think of Titanic and Catch Me If You Can, in my opinion his two finest performances, where he's effervescent and so alive in those characters.  Sadly, though, the Academy keeps insisting on citing him for work like The Revenant or Blood Diamond, and as a result I end up sitting through the height of tedium for over two hours as Edward Zwick reminds us that he was once a force at the Dorothy Chandler.

(Spoilers Ahead) It's worth noting that, if nothing else, the film brought to the forefront the battles in countries like Sierra Leone over the heinous "blood diamond" industry, and that is the focus of the movie.  The film centers around one of the workers in these labor camps Solomon Vandy (Hounsou), who finds an enormous pink diamond clearly worth millions, but then he is taken prisoner by the government.  Through circumstance, he finds a man named Danny Archer (DiCaprio), an unscrupulous diamond smuggler who teams up with him to retrieve the diamond, so that Vandy can be reunited with his family and Archer can amass a fortune.  Along the way, they come across a reporter Maddy Bowen (Connelly) who somehow gets beneath Archer's "tough veneer" and he falls in love with her before he dies in a battle.  The film ends with Bowen uncovering the diamond trade and implicating Westerners in the scandal, while Vandy joins his family once they sell the diamond.

The film is about as cliched and overwrought as that description would indicate.  One would think that DiCaprio would be able to find something to do with this role, but he is not Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone, and once the initial charming of Connelly is done, he never really is watchable the rest of the movie-it's arguably the least of his Oscar-nominated films, and if you remember my thoughts on The Revenant you'll know that's saying something.  Still, he's the best of the three leads, as Connelly is just blankly staring most of the time and doesn't seem to inhabit any of the necessary skills an investigative journalist in her position would need, and Hounsou's only reaction seems to be yelling all of the time.  That this film was nominated for Sound is absurd-they can't even get the dialogue to come across correctly.  Zwick has made films I've enjoyed in the past (Glory and Legends of the Fall being chief amongst them), but this gives in to his worst instincts, with forced sentimentality and illogical changes in character to fit the plot.  Blood Diamond is a bad movie, with few redeeming qualities other than social awareness.

Those are my thoughts-how about yours?  This was a big hit when it first came out, so don't pretend I'm the only one who has seen it?  Is anyone a fan of this picture, or DiCaprio/Hounsou in it?  Anyone want to make the case that DiCaprio deserved this Oscar (or that he was better here than in the far superior The Departed)?  I'm all ears-let's take to the comments!

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