Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Blood Diamond (2006)

Every time you buy a diamond, an African child dies!

As I understand, marriages are highly commoditised in Singapore. If you wish to meet your date again, remember to show up at her door with a car, and pay for everything – from the meals to the shopping done on your dates. The monthly expensive dinner and a gift costing at least $150 is mandatory if you want to last to the endgame. And if she does accept your proposal, remember that you should never have your wedding dinner at a cheap hotel, that you should never have a catered reception/garden party to replace the wedding dinner, and that your wife will resent you for the rest of your life if your wedding ring weighs below than 1 carat or costs less than 3 months of your salary.

Yes, Singapore society may be going to hell in a handbasket, but now you can do your part to staunch the decline and fall, if you bring your date to this movie. Blood Diamond just might shock the date out of her asinine materialism, with its intense dramatisation of what goes behind the scenes of the diamond trade. Because your girlfriend and other idiotic females who really believe that Diamonds Are Forever without realising that it’s the marketing slogan of the De Beers cartel, wars are being waged in African for these shiny rocks, very nasty multi-factional civil wars where little children are kidnapped and brainwashed to be child soldiers, where entire villages are razed to the ground, and villagers either tortured to death, amputated of their limbs, or set to work in mines and rivers to gather the diamonds that your girlfriend and other idiotic females lust for. If your girlfriend doesn’t even blink by the end of this movie or express some form of regret or change of mind over the insistence of the 1 carat diamond ring, you know it’s time to dump her, get a new (younger, more impressionable) girlfriend and let her to watch Blood Diamond with you.

Blood Diamond is a very heartfelt action movie that shows the horrors of the diamond-fuelled wars of Africa without heavy-handed commentary – something that Edward Zwick, the director of politically correct films like Legends of the Fall, Glory, The Last Samurai is a master at. In lesser hands, we would probably feel too manipulated by the director to genuinely care about the poor Africans, but here, the audience is more likely to be shamed and embarrassed by the depiction of the Sierra Leonean civil war of 1991-2002.

The key to Zwick’s success here is to draw us into the story from the point of view of the very unsentimental mercenary soldier, diamond trafficker and all-round war profiteer Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio). It is through him that we know how the global diamond cartel operates, and how international trade finances monsters like Charles Taylor and his Sierra Leonean cronies to wage wars across the continent. It is also through him and Jennifer Connelly (playing the stereotypical journalist who wants to change the world) that we see how difficult it is to solve the madness in Africa without solving the problems that originate outside of Africa. It is only after the careful and anti-sentimental preparation that the story of one Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) becomes truly poignant. A stand-in for the African Everyman, he has been separated from his family during a raid by the guerilla army, his son recruited and brainwashed into a child soldier, and himself sent to work at a mining camp by the river, and finding a huge and rare diamond that will pull in the involvement of Archer, his reporter acquaintance, the guerilla army, a mercenary force, and the cartel’s buyers and proxies in London.

I found this movie to be far less preachy than I expected, and counted only 2 awkward scenes where the director allowed his characters to make The Speech (thankfully short). Zwick balances the superb acting of Djimon Hounsou and DiCaprio against the action-filled war scenes, and leaves very little space for blinkered liberal handwringing that could bring down the film.

Even if your date might not change her mind about this, the subtle message that diamonds are actually more common than thought should sink in. After all, carbon is just about one of the least rare elements on this planet, and diamonds are abundantly created by geological processes. It might interest your date to know that gemstones are rarer than diamonds, but cost less – because there is a global cartel headed by De Beers that exists to keep diamonds rare in the market.

First published at incinemas on 4 January 2007

No comments: