"I understand white people want our diamonds, yes. But how can my own people do this to each other?"Blood Diamond
— Solomon Vandy
is a 2006 film about blood diamonds
. It was directed by Edward Zwick and stars Leonardo DiCaprio
, Djimon Hounsou
and Jennifer Connelly
. Set during the Sierra Leone Civil War in 1999, the film shows a country torn apart by the struggle between government soldiers and rebel forces. It follows two main points of view. Solomon Vandy is a Mende fisherman; his village is attacked and his son taken to be a child soldier, and the rest of his family goes missing while he himself winds up working in a slave camp. Danny Archer is an Anglo-African amoral ex-mercenary from Zimbabwe (though he adamantly keeps referring to it as Rhodesia
) and diamond smuggler. He is arrested trying to smuggle diamonds by using a herd of goats as cover, and meets Solomon while in prison.
Solomon had discovered a large diamond during his time as a slave, and hidden it carefully before he is arrested during an attack on the slave camp he was working at. The only other person who knows about the diamond is the commander of the slave camp, Captain Poison, who quickly places a bounty on Solomon's head. When Danny hears about the diamond, he offers to help Solomon find his scattered family in exchange for it. They are soon joined on their quest by American reporter Maddy Bowen.
Not to be confused with the similarly named Documentary Blood Diamonds.
this film provides examples of:
- African Terrorists: The RUF.
- Amoral Afrikaner: Col. Coetzee and his cronies are ex-Apartheid era military who now work as Private Military Contractors; Coetzee even speaks Afrikaans at some points in the film. Archer isn't quite played straight - he's from Rhodesia (pre-revolutionary Zimbabwe) - but he served in the SADF as well, has much the same attitude, and is hardly more moral than those he's supposed to be fighting against.
- A-Team Firing: The poorly-trained RUF rebels just fire their guns in the general direction of the enemy and hope that they hit something. Danny, who is a well-trained mercenary, mostly fires in semi-auto or bursts, and manages to own loads of hostile ass.
- An Arm and a Leg: When the rebels attack the Vandys' village at the beginning, they line people up to have their hands chopped off. Solomon is only spared because of his size and strength; they send him to the mines instead. Truth in Television; the RUF did this to thousands of Sierra Leoneans during the war.
RUF rebel: Long sleeve, or short sleeve?
- Anti-Hero: Danny.
- Berserk Button: Do not threaten Solomon's family.
- Don't call him a "kaffir," either; basically the African equivalent of "nigger". Truth in Television; using that word around Africans is very, VERY bad form.
- In Danny's case, don't give away his cover and threaten his life as a result. He'll give you one warning. Not two.
- Big Bad: Poison.
- Bittersweet Ending: Solomon escapes with the diamond and is reunited with his family. Maddy exposes the blood diamond trade. Danny, directly responsible for both of these outcomes, dies slowly on a hill in Africa after being gutshot.
- Black and Gray Morality: While the government's soldiers act like dicks at times and we are told that there are attrocities committed on both sides, the film does not show them doing war crimes on the scale of the RUF.
- Black Comedy:
(during a shootout) Archer! You are a dead man!
(bleeding from a gunshot wound with no escape possible) Yeah, yeah...
- Bland-Name Product: Van de Kaap's company stands in for DeBeers Diamonds. Coetzee's mercenary company simply goes unnamed.
- Blessed with Suck: It's repeatedly stated that Africa's problems stem from the fact that it is rich in resources.
- Bling-Bling-BANG!: Trope Namer.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Dia, after Poison turns him into a child soldier.
- Book Ends: Near the beginning of the film, Van de Kaap speaks before a UN inquiry on blood diamond. At the end, Solomon does after making possible Van de Kaap's arrest.
- Break the Cutie: Standard procedure for the RUF in regards to making Child Soldiers.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Mi-24 helicopter was seen flying around the merc base before the diamond mine assault.
- California Doubling: Most of the film was shot in South Africa and Mozambique.
- Call It Karma: The RPGs Danny sold to the RUF early in the film are vital in overrunning the government's forces when the RUF attacks the capital, putting Danny's own life at risk.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: A rather dark take on this trope, though there is some humor when a teacher mentions that the local warlord is still afraid of his ruler on his knuckles.
- Child Soldiers: Makes for 1/3 of the anvil.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: As soon as the mercs' Hind shows up at the mining camp, you know what's about to happen.
- Darkest Africa: Deliberately averted. The closest in imagery it gets is when the main trio get ambushed by a local militia while walking through the jungle.
- Dating Catwoman: Danny and Maddy constantly joke about how they plan to "screw" while remaining wary of each other since Danny knows she's a reporter. He finally caves in and gives her the information she needs midway through the film, but they're forced to separate and never see each other again.
- Death Equals Redemption: Danny.
- Defusing the Tyke Bomb: Successfully done by Solomon to his own son, after a failed attempt earlier.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: An absurdly powerful private military company secretly hired by a large diamond company to make a fortune out of the blood diamonds mined during the Sierra Leone civil war? Sounds familiar...
- In reality, De Beers had no links to Executive Outcomes this time; Executive Outcomes were hired by the Sierra Leonean government for fifteen million dollars (although contrary to popular belief they were not also a mining company and did not receive "diamond mining concessions" or diamonds as payment. They retook the diamond fields the rebels used to raise funds but did not mine there nor take any diamonds from the fields.) Since the U.N. and Clinton Administration pressured the Sierra Leonean government to kick EO out of the country once they had brought peace the diamond mines were quickly back in the hands of the rebels as peace collapsed a few months later.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: You sure did, Solomon.
- Elites Are More Glamorous: Danny and Colonel Coetzee are former members of 32 Battalion, an infamous light infantry and reconnaissance unit from The Apartheid Era. How badass were they? Suffice to say, an officer from the Battalion eventually went on to found Executive Outcomes, one of the most successful modern Private Military Companies ever, and recruited exclusively ex-32's and other elites.
- Evil Versus Evil: The rebels are bad guys, the government they overthrew are bad guys, and the white African mercenaries are bad guys. Lampshaded by Danny.
- Eyepatch of Power: Captain Poison.
- Foe-Tossing Charge: Danny pursuing Dia during the battle at the mining camp.
- Foreshadowing: "This is home. You'll never leave Africa".
- Freudian Excuse: As a child, Danny witnessed the brutal murder of his parents by the rebels who overthrew Rhodesia and created Zimbabwe, and a rather similar situation is true of the child soldiers he encounters.
- Captain Poison claims he has one, though whether this comes even remotely close to gaining him sympathy points is very debatable.
- Heroic Sacrifice:
- He Who Fights Monsters: Although there's no real indication he was ever a good guy, Captain Poison justifies his behavior this way:
Poison: You think I am a devil. But that is because I've lived in hell. I want out.
- Hero-Tracking Failure: Averted, During a shootout in the bush, Danny rolls behind some tree cover to avoid being shot. The gunman attempts to shoot him through the trees, but fails to notice that Danny didn't roll as far as the gunman thought.
- Honor Before Reason: Solomon will do anything to get his son, which nearly gets them killed multiple times and makes him very easy for the greedier characters to exploit.
- Hot Scoop: Maddy. "If you saw this girl, you would not forget it."
- Insistent Terminology: Archer is from Rhodesia.
- Instant Death Bullet: Rebels who get shot fall down immediately. But there are three exceptions: Colonel Coetzee, Kapanay, and Danny.
- Intrepid Reporter: Maddy Bowen.
- Ironic Echo: "I'm the cameraman."
- Just Plane Wrong: A very minor case of it, though. Danny's plane is an Australian Gippsland GA8 Airvan, which only existed as an incomplete prototype in 1999.
- The Airvan is, however, a good representative of the types of single-engine planes common in Africa.
- Karmic Death:
- Poison dies in the confusion of a surprise attack, after being chased down unarmed, like many of his victims. Even better is that Solomon, the one he kidnapped and forced to dig diamonds for him, kills Poison with the very same shovel they forced him to pick up.
- The Jerk Ass reporter that tries to stop Solomon from getting a little orphan in the press bus saying that there is not enough space aboard presumably dies when the rebels lay waste to the vehicle.
- Large Ham: Solomon has his moments (generally when he's angry).
- MacGuffin: The diamond, of course.
- Made of Iron: Danny takes a bullet which puts him in a lot of pain, but still manages to protect Solomon and get him to the plane. He manages a last phone call to Maddy before dying.
- Magic Feather: A fairly tragic one, as Dia's identity as child-soldier "See-Me-No-More" is tied up in the cap that Poison gave him as part of his promotion. When that gets knocked off in the climactic battle, he reverts to plain old Dia... until he sees someone killed right in front of him.
- Misplaced Wildlife: A slight example: cheetahs don't live in Sierra Leone or any of her neighboring countries. Elephants, though extremely rare, can still be found there.
- Mood Dissonance: Given the tone of the film, pretty much every single time they make a joke. The biggest is probably when Danny makes a joke while he's dying, and both men laugh.
- Partial Truth in Television - in stressful situations, even the lamest joke can get those involved busting a gut, since it helps dissipate the emotional strain. Of course, it also helped that the joke in question was getting a bit of long-riding tension out in the open.
Solomon: I thought you would try to steal it from me.
Danny: It occurred to me.
- Number Two: Rupert Simmons to Rudolf van de Kaap
- Not So Different: Danny and Poison both want the diamond so they can get out of Africa.
- The Obi-Wan: Benjamin meets Danny, challenges his world view, and is non-fatally shot, all within ten minutes.
- Oscar Bait: Five nominations, no wins. (Hounsou won three other Supportings, though).
- Papa Wolf: Solomon Vandy, of course.
- Pet the Dog: Some of Captain Poison's displays of kindness to Dia Vandy seem to go beyond simply trying to brainwash him. In particular, when the helicopter attacks, he looks like he's trying to shield Dia with his own body.
- Of course, that could also fall into Pragmatic Villainy - it'd be hard to extort the information he needs from Solomon if he loses his hostage.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Archer, with shades of Tragic Bigot thrown in. He's not an overt racist, but he does seem to harbor levels of resentment toward black people, having fought in Angola for years, and his parents having been brutally murdered by Zimbabwean rebels. This comes out especially after Solomon blows their cover and nearly gets them killed by RUF troops; Archer then subtly compares black people to baboons, starts calling Solomon "boy," and at one point calls him a "kaffir," AKA the African n-word.
- Private Military Contractors: And from an absurdly powerful company too, with at least a transport plane and a gunship. Most likely based on Executive Outcomes, which was even more absurdly powerful and did fight in the Sierra Leone conflict, though in actuality they left in 1997 and were long gone by the time of the RUF's invasion of Freetown in January 1999. It was really a combination of British and UN troops that brought the war to an end in 2001. This was most likely done to avoid associating them or Executive Outcomes with the film's much, much worse mercenaries.
- The Quest
- Refuge in Audacity: Maddie defuses a stand-off with a local militia by convincing them to take some photos with her. (Also is Truth in Television, as renowned South African photographer Greg Marinovich detailed a very similar experience in his memoirs; when he found himself confronted by a group of Zulu workers, he defused the situation by offering to take photographs of them.)
- Running Gag: Danny falling asleep in the transport du jour.
- Any experienced soldier would tell you that this is the most realistic thing about the character.
- "I am the... cameraman".
- Scary Black Man: Solomon is probably the most sympathetic character, but give him a shovel and a few close-ups of his guttural screams, and you've got one scary dude.
- Captain Poison is a more conventional example.
- Scenery Porn: Holy crap, Africa is pretty.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Constantly attempted or invoked by all sides.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Many, possibly even Captain Poison.
- Shovel Strike: Solomon used one to give a beatdown to Captain Poison.
- Shown Their Work: The blue-ray release features several documentaries covering the pre-production of the movie, where the filmmakers do everything from talk former child soldiers through their traumas to start a diamond mine - documenting the stacks of cash they spend on bribes - just so they can say they know what they're talking about.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Danny is way down on the cynical side. Maddy is further towards the idealistic end (and even lampshades Danny's cynicism), although she appears to be actively struggling to actually stay there. The movie itself, while extremely dark and brutal, manages to end on a decisively idealistic (although bittersweet) note.
- Take a Third Option: Some villages get fed up with both the RUF and the military and form local militias to protect themselves from both.
- Tempting Fate: When encountering child soldiers blocking a bridge:
Benjamin Kapanay: (Insisting on stopping) "No, do you know where the word "infantry" comes from, it means: Child Soldier. They're just children."
- Guess what? He gets shot.
- Tested On Humans: The RUF's weapons.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: The aforementioned Child Soldiers swear like sailors. Though it is tragic because you know how they learned to curse like that, it can be vaguely funny in a Black Comedy sort of way, then they get over-excited and shoot The Obi-Wan.
- Unstoppable Rage: In one of the most epic hero-on-villain beatdowns in recent cinema.
- Villainous Rescue/Gunship Rescue: The South African mercenaries obliterating the blood diamond mining camp with a Mi-24 Hind gunship. Also a technical Moment Of Awesome since it was the first scene in any feature film, ever, to feature the aircraftnote .
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: Averted with the local militia in the jungle. They just take the group to Kapanay's house and tell him that they are his problem now.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Solomon, one of the few completely sympathetic characters in the film.
- Kapanay is either this or just too much of a Nice Guy.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Done by the Mercenaries to Danny and Solomon, telling them they do not wish to share the profits and wished to erase all evidence involving them.