“Blood Diamond” (R, 150 minutes) In order to do it justice, the new Leonardo Dicaprio film “Blood Diamond” really must be looked at from two perspectives. The first being the social justice fueled message side, in which the film takes us into the heart of Sierra Leone circa 1990’s and makes us witness to the gruesome violence and corporate greed that decimated the country. The second being the pure action movie side, which comes packed with the most vivid of visuals and intense, fast-paced sequences guaranteed to move you to the edge of your seat. One could easily argue, and in my opinion be right, that the latter is where this latest effort from director Edward Zwick really excels. And yet, the emotion and sadness inherent in the former is added fuel for the high-stakes action that plays out on screen. In short, “Blood Diamond” is an exciting movie experience, made more so by the fact that it’s story has real impact and meaning.

Leonardo Dicaprio has followed his performance in the recent “The Departed” with a truly star-worthy turn as diamond smuggler and glory seeker Danny Archer, a crafty loner with a knack for surviving in the harshest of Africa’s interior. Fate lands him in the same prison as Salomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), an unassuming Sierra Leone fisherman and family man, who ended up there himself after a horrible string of events that found most of his village killed, his wife and daughters lost, and his young son stolen by the murderous native mercenaries at war with seemingly everyone for control of the country’s precious diamonds. Salomon’s big card in the game, and avenue to getting his family back, is the large pink diamond he found and hid in the jungle. Archer wants it, and forces an alliance upon Salomon in hopes of getting just that. Along the way towards the diamond, Salomon’s family, or death — whichever comes first — they meet Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), an American journalist in Sierra Leone to cover the atrocities and seedy business dealings destroying the landscape and its people. Soon she’s by their side on a dangerous, stunningly exciting adventure filled with sorrow and only a small glimmer of hope.

“Blood Diamond” is too much of a Hollywood action entertainment to get across its message about Africa in the same way as recent movies like “Hotel Rwanda.” And that’s OK, because it never pretends to be trying to do so. This is an extremely well-crafted and well-acted action film, made on an epic canvas, that showcases the harrowing state of the conflict diamond trade not in your face, front and center, but between the lines, letting its impact on the characters in the action yarn tell the tale. Whether that’s the appropriate approach is for you to decide. But what is quite apparent is that Zwick and his team have made a truly exciting motion picture. B+

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