Blood Diamond

Photo: Blood Diamond: Jaap Buitendijk

Righteous indignation is exhausting in a movie — maybe not for the indignant, but certainly for the unsuspecting moviegoing bystander in the path of all that onrushing rectitude. Blood Diamond, set in Sierra Leone, makes a big show of dramatic twists, linking the fates of a white African diamond smuggler, a black African fisherman, and an American journalist in a series of perils set to trumpety action music. But the movie’s message is static, medicinal: Don’t buy blood diamonds (also known as conflict diamonds, for the bloody African civil wars their sales subsidize). Don’t do business with companies that sell blood diamonds. And don’t forget to enjoy the chase scenes.

You may not want to eat popcorn under the circumstances. Anyhow, don’t say you haven’t been thoroughly briefed about what blood diamonds are, not after 132 educational minutes of Djimon Hounsou looking stricken as forced laborer Solomon Vandy (hiding a diamond as big as the Ritz and trying to rescue his scattered family); Leonardo DiCaprio looking conflicted as mercenary Danny Archer (angling to sell Solomon’s stone); and Jennifer Connelly looking idealistic but wily as Maddy Bowen (a magazine writer out to report a story no other newshound in America apparently cares about). ”You might catch a minute of this on CNN somewhere between sports and weather,” she lectures, her flashing eyes turned toward DiCaprio but her words aimed at the audience, or perhaps The Huffington Post. Even though Connelly’s Maddy is the dewiest warzone lady since MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield traipsed off to Afghanistan, she alone can prove that big business is complicit in these dirty dealings. The chemistry between the Lois Lane and Han Solo of the Dark Continent is unstable at best. Hounsou does better as a soul on fire.

Edward Zwick, who directed from an explicatory script by Charles Leavitt (K-PAX), has called himself a ”perpetual student”; his previous honors-class movies include Glory, Courage Under Fire, and The Last Samurai. There is every reason to learn about the link between jewels and death, by all means, but no reason to try to disguise a term paper as entertainment.

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