Blood Diamond (2006)

(In theaters, December 2006) At a time where Hollywood blockbusters seem more concerned about marketing than social edification, it’s a mixed blessing to see a film like Blood Diamond, which cleverly mixes all of the trappings of an action thriller with a heavy-handed social drama about the plight of Africa. It works far more often than it doesn’t, but the didactic edge to the film often lends it a moral righteousness that works at odds with the film’s entertaining nature. Compared to the similar The Constant Gardner, Blood Diamond feels like a blunt instrument swung wildly, often making contact but with far less grace. Entire chunks of the film feel superfluous, but none more than the shoehorned romance between the two white leads: Though Leonardo DiCaprio turns in a fabulous hard-edged performance on the heels of his turn in The Departed, Jennifer Connelly is a bit lightweight as a journalist who’s supposed to have seen everything –though she’s stuck in an underwritten role. Whatever the case, their romance feels like a weak and mandatory plot element, which is disappointing given the richness of the film’s other thematic concerns. Third-world exploitation, child soldiers, cyclic patterns of insurrection, private wars, first-world indifference, gun-dealing and other weighty issues are all tackled with some skill here, and the script even allows itself a generous helping of gunfights, chases and explosions. The result is a good film, but one that stops short of being great. Ironically, it’s not because it’s lacking something: it’s because it has too much of the wrong stuff. A leaner, less Hollywoodish third act would have been a perfect cap on an excellent film: as it stands now, Blood Diamond is still one of the better films of the year, but struggles to be anything more.

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