This could have been something worth while, but Hollywood has made yet another error in judgment. The story revolves around an African man named Solomon (Djimon Hounsou) and a white diamond smuggler named Danny (Leonardo DiCaprio). Early in the film we witness the abduction of Solomon as he is separated from his family by warlords. He is taken prisoner and forced to work in the diamond minds in Sierra Leone. It is obvious from the outset that the warlords are vicious and will kill anyone who even looks at them funny, so Solomon takes a giant risk when he finds a very large diamond and tries to hide it in the dirt. Unfortunately, one of the warlords sees him, but fighting breaks out which allows Solomon to escape death and be taken to prison by the African government.
During the same time, Danny makes his way to Africa in order to buy diamonds to bring back to America. Along the way he is captured and brought to the same jail as Solomon. Danny pays for Solomon to get out because he heard of the giant diamond buried in the sand and convinces him that the only way to get his family back is to retrieve the diamond and buy off some ‘white people’ with Danny.
Thus far the story is engaging and intense, but it takes a wrong turn. There are two subplots that take up a lot of screen time. One is the journey of Solomon’s young son who is taken by the warlords and taught to fight and kill without any notion of evil doing. By not so shocking coincidence the same man who saw Solomon bury the diamond becomes a father figure for the boy. And the first time we see the son with a gun, it is obvious that at one point he will have it pointed at his father where we are going to see an emotional moment of reconciliation. The other subplot involves a romance between Danny and a reporter named Maddy whose only real impact on the story is to look good and make comments about how America isn’t doing anything about the destruction in Africa. Thanks for bringing these things to light Maddy, because nobody else has ever done that.
It is sad to see the filmmaker think that no American would want to watch a movie about the killings and civil war in Africa. Instead they take two good looking American stars and plop them into the story where they both have very little significance. The real story here is about how families are being torn apart and having to kill one another to stay alive. Stories about how sons are forced to kill their mothers or else be tortured. At the end of the film a statistic is given that 200,000 child soldiers are still in Africa, but almost the entire movie focuses on if Danny is going to go to bed with Maddy. Danny is the main character here because he is the only one that shows growth and is given the most screen time. Sure, a tacked on emotional reunification takes place between Solomon and his family (which is practically impossible given the circumstances), but the whole story is centered on how the white people are going to feel.
It’s amazing how good a movie this could have been had the filmmakers taken a chance and relied on the intelligence of the American public, but instead they decided to play to the box office and sugarcoat some very horrible incidents that take place every day. The sad part is that they think these films are making a difference in public opinion about Africa when in actuality they are only making a worse opinion of how Hollywood operates. Take a film like The Battle of Algiers for example. It is a film that doesn’t flinch in the face of truth, but examines it and still manages to make an entertaining story. I just hope that at some point people who make movies will understand that entertainment and truth don’t have to be mutually exclusive.