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Film / Blood Diamond

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"That's for breaking my TV, bru."

"I understand white people want our diamonds, yes. But how can my own people do this to each other?"
Solomon Vandy

Blood Diamond 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 Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe, though he refuses to acknowledge that) 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.

Along with The Departed (which came out a month before it), Blood Diamond is often credited with causing a major shift in Leonardo DiCaprio's public image, thanks to him successfully Playing Against Type as a hard-edged career criminal. For most of the early 2000s, he was still primarily known as the boyishly handsome romantic lead of Titanic and Romeo + Juliet, and was perennially typecast as youthful and vivacious heartthrobs—even in more serious films like Gangs of New York and The Aviator. DiCaprio's role as the thoroughly antiheroic Danny Archer gave him a chance to show off his true range, paving the way for his later acclaimed roles in Inception, Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Not to be confused with the similarly named Documentary Blood Diamonds.

this film provides examples of:

  • African Terrorists: The RUF, of whom Captain Poison is a leading figure. Among other things, they train Child Soldiers into vicious killers by feeding them drugs and forcing them to commit horrendous atrocities.
  • 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.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Posters advertising 3G mobile can be seen in the Cape Town International Airport. Certainly no such technology existed in 1999.
    • LCD monitors can be seen in the scenes at G-8 conference on diamonds, along with mid-2000s era laptops.
    • One of the child soldiers can be seen playing a Game Boy Advance SP, not released until 2003.
    • The phone Danny uses to call near the end is a Globalstar SAT 550, which weren't sold commercially until 2000. The technology at the time also would be unlikely to work in Africa.
    • The guard Rambo is wearing a Snoop Dogg Afroskull Tee - not on the market until 2004.
    • For the scenes in London, we can see a bus for route 453 (which didn't exist until 2003) and 2005 Volkswagen Passat.
  • 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?
  • Arc Words: "This is Africa".
  • Armies Are Evil: More like, "armies are often evil." The child soldiers are radicalized by maniacs, the government army is stated to often commit atrocities, and the mercenary army Danny is part of refuses to help unless the government indulges some demands.
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • Danny is arrested by Liberian guards for crossing the border from Sierra Leone. He should have ended up in a prison in Liberia, rather than Sierra Leone.
    • The co-ordinates that Danny calls in puts the rebel camp at somewhere in southeast Sudan - on the other side of the African continent.
    • The vehicles in the movie are shown driving on the left side of the road. In Sierra Leone, they drive on the right. This is because filming was done in Mozambique and South Africa, where they drive on the left.
    • The sun is shown rising over the ocean in Freetown - which is in the West, so the sun should be rising over the continent to the east.
  • Artistic License – Geology
    • Archer claims the diamonds will be sent to India, where they will "become like any other diamonds." A diamond's shape, crystal structure and colour are dead giveaways to its origin. Further, India (and Indonesia) specialise in small diamonds only, while the diamonds shown are at least 10 carats each.
    • A multinational diamond corporation large enough to be invited to a G8 summit would make most of its products from "mêlée", medium diamonds of a half to two carats. It's unlikely they would bother with a single diamond, even a large one. Similarly, the mercenaries are paid in mining concessions, meaning they, too, would have no reason to chase after a single, albeit large, diamond.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The mercenary intervention of Executive Outcomes in the Sierra Leone civil war began in May 1995 and ended in January 1997. By the time of the RUF invasion of Freetown in 1999, when the film is set, they were long gone. The civil war was ended by a combination of British and UN forces in 2001. This was likely changed to avoid associating either group with the film's much worse mercenaries. Additionally, the mercenaries are paid in diamond mining concessions, which was not the case for Executive Outcomes.
    • An official at the G8 summit says that people in Africa have died over "ivory, rubber, gold, oil and it's now true of diamonds." Oil is produced in very small amounts in Africa and has never been a matter of any wars. Diamonds haven't caused much war in South Africa and Botswana since the end of 19th century. And the civil war in Sierra Leone wasn't over diamonds (diamonds were used to finance it, though).
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: Danny says the Shona called him 'Mukiwa' (white boy in Africa). That's the Ndebele word; the Shona word is 'Murungu'.
  • Berserk Button: Don't call Solomon a "kaffir,"; it's basically the African equivalent of the N-word. Truth in Television; it's considered a very grievous insult, especially in southern African countries.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Poison and Coatzee, who are on opposite sides of the war but nonetheless pose the biggest threats to Vandy and Archer, respectively.
  • 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 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, as put in Danny's famous quote.
    "You know, in America, it's bling bling, but out here, it's bling bang, huh?"
  • 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.
  • 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. The entire nightmarish process of conditioning them is shown and the results are terrible.
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction: Solomon has found a diamond and is trying to steal it before his bosses find out. He gets his first chance when a water pipe burst and he's able to sneak away to hide the diamond. Then when Poison catches him burying it, a rebel shootout occurs and Solomon is able to flee in the chaos.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: As soon as the mercs' Hind shows up at the mining camp, you know what's about to happen.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Archer and Solomon have a brief scuffle during their travels when emotions run high. Solomon literally picks up Archer, throws him to the ground and holds him down. Archer, being a trained military veteran and mercenary, easily breaks through Solomon's hold and is able to incapacitate the other man.
  • 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: As Danny is dying from a gunshot wound, he lets Solomon leave with the diamond and Maddy's contact details - also giving him a gun to ensure he won't be one-upped by the getaway pilot.
  • 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...
  • Eagle-Eye Detection: The officer who catches Danny smuggling diamonds—he looks suspiciously at Danny's goats, finds a seam on one of them and cuts it open revealing the diamonds underneath.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Solomon goes through utter hell - being separated from his family, forced to work in the diamond mines, nearly being a casualty in military conflicts several times, having his son brainwashed into a child soldier, and spending half the film fleeing for his life. In the end, he has £2 million, is reunited with his family and has helped put a stop to the diamond trade.
  • 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 hardcore 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.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Danny and Solomon are rather open about the fact that they're simply using each other as a means to an end at the start of the film, but become this by the end.
  • 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.
  • Gallows Humor: In the climax, Danny is mortally wounded, and is telling Solomon to leave without him before handing him the diamond. They share a laugh after the following exchange.
    Solomon: I thought you would steal it from me.
    Danny: It had occurred to me...
  • 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.
  • 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 - who is determined to get as powerful a story as she can to stop the conflict.
  • 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.
  • 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 Jerkass 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). One famous scene has him stripping naked in prison to bellow a speech about how everything was taken from him.
    • As does Captain Poison. Of course in his case, it makes him more terrifying because it adds to how insane he is.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: While many of the government's soldiers act like huge dicks 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.
  • 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.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: Averted. The film shot mostly in Mozambique, but since Mozambique lacks the mountains that Sierra Leone has, the production team added them in with matte paintings and CGI.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Danny's response to one of the prostitutes propositioning him as he leaves his hotel.
  • Nudity Equals Honesty: Invoked. Solomon strips in the Freetown jail to show Captain Poison that he doesn't have the diamond when Poison tries to rally the inmates to attack Solomon for it. Impressively, Solomon doesn't relent in his Shut Up, Hannibal! speech throughout it.
  • Oscar Bait: Five nominations, no wins. (Hounsou won three other Supportings, though).
  • Papa Wolf: Solomon Vandy, of course. The look on his face when he finally get's to kill Poison for what he did to his son is just pure rage.
  • 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 South African N-word.
  • Poverty Porn: Discussed. Maddy, an American journalist, starts writing a report about the social ravaging caused by the wars in Sierra Leone but grows frustrated because she feels it won't make any real effect. She compares it to advertisements featuring starving children. Guilted by her vexation, the listening Archer starts admitting his inside knowledge of the blood diamond trade, giving her report a stronger call to political action.
  • 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.
  • 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, being a leader of the RUF, who engage in Rape, Pillage, and Burn.
  • Scenery Porn: Inbetween the scenes of action, brutality, horror and the message, there are some amazing shots of the Sierra Leone countryside and Freetown though it takes a dark turn for the latter when the RUF invade.
  • 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. And in the movie itself, they avert both Bottomless Magazines and A-Team Firing, subtly showing the difference between Danny, a career mercenary, and the disorganized rebels led by Poison.
  • 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. Solomon is on the idealistic side as well, given how his love for his family is what motivates him to undertake his grueling trek with Danny to begin with. 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."
  • Things Are More Effective in Hollywood: The satellite phone Danny uses to call Maddy. First, he uses it like a normal cell - moving it around to get a signal - when the antenna needs to be pointed in the approximate direction of the satellite in the sky. Second, there are usually delays in conversations made with them, due to the distance of the satellite from Earth. Danny and Maddy's conversation has no delays (although this could be Acceptable Breaks from Reality, as showing accurate delays might ruin the flow of the scene).
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: The aforementioned Child Soldiers. In addition to being what they are, they drink alcohol and 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 mentor.
  • Unstoppable Rage: In one of the most epic hero-on-villain beatdowns in 2000s cinema, Solomon clubs Poison to death with a shovel
  • Villainous Rescue/Gunship Rescue: The South African mercenaries obliterating the blood diamond mining camp with a Mi-24 Hind gunship. Also of note is 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. He successfully uses his idealism to help his son.
    • 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.