December brings us the thinking person’s thrillers — all of the explosions and shooting and close calls of a summer movie, but with a more serious purpose and a more distinguished pedigree.
Like Syriana and Traffic, this is the story of deeply entrenched corruption on a global scale, corruption that permeates all levels of society and sustains governments, corporations, and wars. This time it is not oil or drugs. It is diamonds. The diamond industry sells them as magic, the essence of romance. “A diamond is forever.” Three months salary is the right amount to spend for an engagement ring. And the engagement ring is just the beginning — there’s the anniversary band. And there’s the right-hand ring. Every girl can feel a little bit like a movie star or a princess if she looks down at her finger and sees a little bit of what was once a lump of coal and now sparkles when it catches the light.
But on its way to the velvet-draped pedestals at the mall jewelry shops and the red carpet bling, the diamonds are used to support oppression, weapons trade, brutality, and a wide range of illegal activity.
This story is illustrated here through the stories of three fictional characters, a soldier of fortune (Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer), a farmer (Djimon Hounsou as Solomon), and an American journalist (Jennifer Connelly as Maddy Bowen).
Solomon’s peaceful life is ripped apart when his village is attacked by rebel forces. He is kidnapped and forced to labor in the diamond mines. His young son is forced to become a “soldier,” given drugs and abused so thoroughly that he loses any sense that the world can be sane or fair.
Solomon comes upon a rare pink diamond of extraordinary size. He wants to use it to find his family. But everyone around him quickly begins plotting to get it for themselves, by any means necessary. He reluctantly joins forces with Danny. Both have dreams of leaving the brutal world of casual corruption that surrounds them.
But they’re not the only ones who want out. They have to run and hide as they try to track down the diamond, now in rebel-occupied territory, and locate Solomon’s family.
Performances filled with conviction and dignity from all three principal actors, powerful action, and a strong structure that ties together all of the strands of the story and all of the reaches of the diamond industry, from the child soldiers to the glossy magazine ads make this a stirring and powerful story.
Parents should know that this movie has extreme, intense, and graphic peril and violence. Many characters are injured and killed. Rebels and government forces shoot at each other and at civilians, including children. All forms of brutality and violence are described and depicted, including rape, torture, mutilation, and turning children into “soldiers.” Children and adults are kidnapped and forced into labor with rebel forces or the diamond mines. Characters use strong language, including racial epithets. There are sexual references. Characters smoke and drink and children are given drugs. The movie includes depictions of a wide level of corruption and betrayal.
Families who see this movie should talk about what people meant when they said “TIA.” Who is in the best position to change the situation depicted here? Why? Can a moment of love give meaning to a life? How? Families might want to look at the UN’s report on conflict diamonds and the Kimberley Process for ensuring that diamonds are legitimately mined and sold.
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a classic story of the impact of the prospect of great riches. They will also enjoy Syriana and Traffic.