There are plenty of reasons to dislike Blood Diamond -- it's over-long, over-earnest, and over-hyped, just for starters. But Blood Diamond is handsomely made; it features at least one interesting performance; it is actually trying to be about something. In an end-of-year film season crammed with pious nonsense like The Pursuit of Happyness and insane vanity projects like Rocky Balboa, that's enough to reveal it as, well, something like a diamond -- multifaceted, rough and all the more brilliant viewed against its contrasting background. And, of course, like a diamond, it has no real value beyond what the viewer is willing to ascribe to it.
Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai), Blood Diamond takes place in civil-war torn Sierra Leone. A fisherman, Solomon (Djimon Hounsou) wants the simple things -- peace, order, a better life for his son. He's not going to get them. Rebel forces tear through the village -- killing many, mutilating some and pressing others into service as diamond miners. This is Solomon's fate, although he's soon rescued and taken to jail. Sierra Leone's rebels finance their attacks on the government through selling diamonds; the jewelry industry doesn't want to have a potential customer ready to punk down the recommended three month's salary turned off by the ugly political realities of Sierra Leone -- crimson blood clashes with wedding white -- so most of Sierra Leone's diamonds are smuggled into neighboring Liberia; this is where Rhodesian-born, South African-bred smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) comes in.