The main draw for me is the director, Edward Zwick, who directed The Last Samurai, one of my favorite films of all time. I could see a lot of similarities in terms of style, plotting and characterization between the two movies, and so it didn’t take much for me to realize how good the film actually was.
Both films are told from the point of view of the outsider with no home and from the insider whose home is threatened. Both revolve around a journey and both end with the characters discovering what they were really looking for. And lastly, both films are stories of redemption, albeit told in very different milieus — Meiji-era Japan and Sierra Leone in 1996.
The film, in its 2 hour and 15 minute-glory, held two surprises for me.
First was the character of Daniel Archer brought to life by the incredible portrayal of Leonardo di Caprio. I didn’t expect to be impressed by Leo, but then again this director brought out the best in Tom Cruise too. Daniel Archer is a unique mix of a Captain Jack Sparrow and a James Bond; he is loyal only to himself and does it with so much flair. It was also fascinating to watch the character evolve.
Second surprise was that this film is the latest addition to my growing list of political movie favorites — this may even be a Syriana beater. I really loved the interplay of international illicit trade and local tribal warfare, and the film serves as a fantastic commentary on violence, human nature and hope.
I strongly recommend this film, and I hope that more films venture into the society, culture and politics of Africa. There is no better place to stare at the nature of man than in the cradle of life itself; blood, diamonds and all.