Edward Zwick's Blood Diamond doesn't quite know what it wants to be. An action flick (there are a lot of gunfire and explosions in virtually every sequence, and lead Leonardo DiCaprio gets to play action hero)? A morality play (it's about how involved we are in the atrocities in Africa over 'blood diamonds,' and puts forward the question of whether humans are inherently good or evil)? An intense drama (we all know Djimon Hounsou shouts a lot in this one)? It's a messy ride, but that isn't saying that it's not a fun one.
Much has been said about Hounsou's hysterics here, and this writer does not really know what to make of it. On the one hand, he simply screams too much, to the point where his every loud utterance is cringe-worthy. On the other hand, there is no denying that his performance is intense and riveting, and that much of that cringing could probably be attributed to how the power in his voice and expression can shake you inside. That's probably why he's getting a lot of citations, most notably from fellow actors, who we suppose know it best.
DiCaprio is, as ever, amazing in this one. The accent is spot-on; it makes you think, for the whole 143-minute runtime, that he is truly an actor from Africa. People should not be surprised that he's getting nominations left and right for this performance and for that in The Departed. While this writer prefers that he get a lead Oscar nod for the latter (easily his best perf to date), each is special in its own way and solidifies DiCaprio's status as one of the best actors of his generation, if not the best.
Aside from the performances (Jennifer Connelly is just OK), a major bright spot in this otherwise flawed film is the fact that the images of chaotic Sierra Leone, while repetitive and sometimes forced, drive into the audience with undeniable strength. For those incendiary sequences alone, Blood Diamond is easily one of the scariest films released this year, and this viewer does not mean that in a bad way at all. Grade: B
Image from IMDb