This is film feels like an attempt to cross an adventure movie with a war movie with a Hollywood message movie. At times it succeeds rather well but at other times it’s borderline terrible.
The film suffers from the typical Hollywood problem when making movies about Africa, which is that it has to be seen through the eyes of white people. At least this time the white person is from there, though. DiCaprio is excellent and remains not that likable throughout the movie – when another film would have made him progressively more likable. Honsou is also great in what would have been the lead role had this movie not been made by Hollywood. (It probably is the lead role, but they still manage to make it feel as though it’s not.) I feel Connelly is not exactly the right actor for her role, but I warmed up to her as the movie went on.
Everyone is very committed, and that should make the movie succeed, right? The biggest hurdle is the often horrible expository dialogue that begins, not with any actual dialogue, but a map of the world telling us where Sierra Leone is. You know, because we’re dumb and don’t have Google Earth. And then they cut in a meeting about the diamond trade with some of the opening scenes in order to tell us what’s happening, rather than, you know, showing what’s happening. And this continues throughout the film – though it is hardly constant – and is a source of constant annoyance. And a little bit of the DiCaprio-Connelly banter is also trying.
The pacing is also problematic for what is, by modern standards, a long movie. But fortunately there’s enough of story – contrived though it may be – that the odd pacing doesn’t hurt the film like the expository dialogue.
And the story is indeed contrived and over-told – the deal between a regular guy and a selfish, experienced person that eventually brings them together, paired with a big action climax where The Hero gets to confront The Villain – even though that isn’t the climax itself. And after the big stupid action climax, there’s a different big emotional climax, both of which feel inauthentic and more contrived than the rest of the already contrived story.
And I guess that’s why I have trouble enjoying the positive parts.