When diamonds get 'RUF'

"Blood Diamond" is a gut-wrenching and thoroughly believable film about the exploitations of the natives of an African nation.

Solomon Vandy (Djimon Honsou) is a fisherman in Sierra Leone in 1999. He is taken from his family by the Revolutionary United Front, an anti-government terrorist organization, and forced to search for diamonds to fund its efforts. While working, Solomon finds a large, pink diamond, which is extremely valuable. He buries the diamond in the jungle, but before he can make a run for it, the government catches the RUF and its prisoners.

Solomon is jailed along with them, and is hounded by an RUF member who saw him bury the stone. Diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) overhears this, and makes plans to have Solomon released.

Once they are both out of jail, Danny proposes they find the diamond and split the profits. Solomon reluctantly agrees because he wants to find his family. Danny contacts an American journalist (Jennifer Connelly) to help them with transportation, and they embark on the dangerous search for the diamond.

DiCaprio is agreeable as Danny Archer, although he may not have been the best casting choice; African-born Archer's accent wavers constantly. On the other hand, DiCaprio is able to convey Archer's untrustworthy nature just as well as his more noble moments. Connelly is better as Maddy Bowen, whose compassion for the plight of the people of Sierra Leone helps her to see what good can be accomplished by finding the diamond before the government or the RUF can get it.

Honsou trumps the two of them as Solomon, who should have a greater share of the spotlight than Archer. He makes up for the misguided focus by pouring his heart and soul into his character.

The movie is well named; "blood diamonds" are diamonds that have been exported from a war zone, the effort getting them involving a great deal of bloodshed. Blood is a constant throughout the film, with the RUF hacking off people's limbs, raping women, and even arming children with machine guns.

Even Solomon's son, Dia, is brainwashed and persuaded to join the group. The perpetual violence displays very well just how horrible the ordeal is.

Along with other films released this year, such as the Apartheid-themed "Catch a Fire" and the Idi Amin biopic "The Last King of Scotland," "Blood Diamond" opens our eyes to the suffering of those living in such upheaval. Whether it is Sierra Leone, South Africa or Uganda, these are all places that we can barely fathom.

Hopefully, we can take away something from films such as this one. At the end of "Blood Diamond," the audience is asked to buy only conflict-free diamonds.

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