A 'Diamond' in the Rough

Friday, December 8, 2006

Pounding action, pulse-quickening adventure and of-the-moment politics animate "Blood Diamond," a mostly great thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who between this outing and "The Departed" has undergone a major growth spurt this year.

DiCaprio plays a smuggler named Danny Archer, who cut his teeth in Angola as a South African teenager and now finds himself a mercenary middleman between rebels in Sierra Leone and European diamond merchants. At the height of Sierra Leone's brutal civil war, Archer meets Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), who was kidnapped by rebels, forced to work in their diamond mines and, while digging, found and hid a huge pink gem. With the help of a plucky American journalist, Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), the two men search for the diamond, which for Archer will ensure his escape from Africa and for Vandy will help him find his son, who has become a child soldier.

It gets even more complicated, and for the first two-thirds of "Blood Diamond," director Edward Zwick keeps things moving, legible and skillfully limned for all their moral complexity. Things get out of hand during the film's last half-hour, though, as the filmmaker's instincts for extremes take over. For its flaws, "Blood Diamond" is a gem, if only for being an unusually smart, engaged popcorn flick.

-- Ann Hornaday

Blood Diamond R, 125 minutes Contains violence and profanity. Area theaters.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company