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Friday, December 08, 2006

Apocalypto, Blood Diamond 

Apocalypto:

Mel Gibson is a strange duck. I don’t mean the craziness, or the anti-Semitic remarks, or any of that. This is a movie review, after all, not a column in People. If you want dirt, gossip, or snark, go somewhere else. I’m here to talk about his work.

First, credit where credit’s due: the man is a very skilled filmmaker. He gets solid performances from his actors. He writes good dialogue. His movies are beautifully composed. And they are always interesting. He’s no hack, and he’s certainly not interested in turning out the same old garbage that most studios put out. He is a man with a vision, and he does not compromise in telling it. There’s something to be said for all of these traits.

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Blood Diamond:

Edward Zwick is an old-fashioned filmmaker, and Blood Diamond is an old-fashioned instructional film that tells us the real cost behind every diamond ring. I may be more receptive to its message than most; every holiday season, the diamond industry finds new ways to offend me, and I already knew a little of what’s shown here. Yes, men are pressganged into mining for diamonds by tyrannical warlords looking to fund their bloody revolutions. Yes, De Beers and others (represented here by the fictional firm Van Der Kapp) buy up diamond surpluses and store them, specifically to create artificial scarcity and raise prices.

But I didn’t know about the million-strong refugee camps left in the wake of these periodic surges of violence. I didn’t know how De Beers got around buying conflict diamonds (they’re smuggled into neighboring nations and bought there). Nor have I seen so vividly rendered the squalor that the world’s richest people make their fortunes in. In all these and other ways, Blood Diamond is informative and (I hope) transformative to audience members who knew nothing about the source of their jewelry. “People would not wear a diamond on their finger if they knew it cost someone their hand,” says one character in a particularly naive lapse of judgement for someone surrounded by the kind of violence pretty rocks can generate. But here’s hoping he’s right anyway.

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