Blood Diamond

  • Directors: Edward Zwick
  • Producers: Gillian Gorfil, Marshall Herskovitz, Graham King, Paula Weinstein, Edward Zwick
  • Writers: Charles Leavitt
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Thriller
  • Actors: Djimon Hounsou, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Michael Sheen, Arnold Vosloo

Set during the Sierra Leone Civil War in 1999, the film shows a country torn apart by the struggle between government soldiers and rebel forces.[1] The film portrays many of the atrocities of that war, including the rebels’ amputation of people’s hands to discourage them from voting in upcoming elections.

The film begins with the capture of Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a Mende fisherman, by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels when they invade the small Sierra Leonian village of Shenge. Separated from his family, Solomon is enslaved to work in the diamond fields under the command of a Warlord called Captain Poison (David Harewood) while his son Dia is conscripted into the rebel forces, the brainwashing eventually turning him into a hardened killer. The RUF use the diamonds to fund their war effort, often trading them directly for arms. While working in the RUF diamond fields as a forced laborer, Solomon finds a large, pink diamond inside a big, broken pipe in the diamond fields. Claiming that he must go to the toilet, Solomon hides the diamond between his toes to try and sneak it away to bury it. However, moments before government troops launch an attack, Captain Poison sees Solomon hiding the diamond. Captain Poison is injured in an attack by government forces before he can get the stone, and both he and Solomon are taken to prison in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

Solomon travels to London and, with the help of Bowen, he trades the diamond to Simmons for £2,000,000 and the reunification of his family, making the exchange as Solomon’s wife and children arrive via a Lear Jet at a London airport. Bowen, who secretly photographs the deal, later publishes a magazine piece exposing the trade in “conflict” or “blood” diamonds. The film ends with Solomon smiling at the photograph Maddy took of Archer earlier, now published in her magazine along with the complete story of their journey, before addressing a conference on blood diamonds in Kimberley, South Africa, describing his experiences. This refers to an actual meeting that took place in Kimberley in 2000 and led to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which seeks to certify the origin of diamonds in order to curb the trade in conflict diamonds.

Legends of the Fall

  • Directors: Edward Zwick
  • Producers: Marshall Herskovitz, William D Wittliff, Edward Zwick
  • Writers: Jim Harrison, Susan Shilliday, William D Wittliff
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, War, Western
  • Actors: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond, Henry Thomas

Colonel William Ludlow, sick of the betrayals the United States government has perpetrated on the Native Americans, retires with One Stab, a Native American friend and narrator of the film, along with his hired hand Decker, Decker’s Cree wife, Pet, and their young daughter, Isabel Two, to a remote part of Montana, where he builds a ranch. His wife, Isabel, does not adapt well to the harsh winters and leaves for the East Coast. Colonel Ludlow has three sons: Alfred, the eldest, is responsible and cautious; Tristan is wild and well versed in American Indian traditions; Samuel, the youngest, is educated but naive and is constantly watched over by his brothers.

At age 12, Tristan tries to sneak up and touch a sleeping grizzly bear. The bear awakes and slashes at him, injuring him, but he stabs at the bear’s paw and manages to cut off a claw. The bear limps away.

As the boys grow up, Samuel returns from Harvard with his fiancée, Susannah Fincannon. She finds Tristan’s wild charisma captivating, and she is conflicted over this because she loves Samuel. Before the two can marry, Samuel abruptly tells his family he is leaving for Calgary to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and serve The British Empire in the fight against Imperial Germany. Much to their father’s displeasure, Alfred and Tristan go off to war with him.

Tristan finally returns from his world travels during Prohibition, bringing life back to the ranch and his father. He accepts Susannah’s marriage to Alfred, falls in love with and marries Isabel Two, and they have two children. Life seems to settle into an air of normality as Tristan finds solace in his young wife and children. During Prohibition, Tristan becomes involved in small-scale smuggling bootleg liquor and finds himself at odds with the O’Banion brothers, who are also bootleggers. Tristan’s wife is accidentally killed by a corrupt police officer working for the O’Banions and in a fit of agonized grief, Tristan beats the officer to near death and has to plead guilty and serve 30 days in jail. Susannah visits, but Tristan refuses her advances and insists she “go home to Alfred,” her rightful husband. After his release from jail, Tristan and his father-in-law Decker kill those responsible for Isabel Two’s death, including one of the O’Banion brothers. Susannah then commits suicide out of guilt and inner conflicts. When the remaining O’Banion brother comes for Tristan, he and the corrupt Sheriff are shot and killed by Colonel Ludlow and Alfred as Tristan attempts to protect his father. Alfred is finally forgiven by, and reunited with, his father and brother. Tristan, knowing he will be blamed for the men’s disappearance, leaves for the mountain country after asking Alfred to watch over his children. The film skips ahead, showing a rundown cemetery with the gravestones of everyone in Tristan’s life, all who died before him. The movie ends with Tristan as an old man fighting a grizzly bear which is missing a claw. As One Stab says, ‘It was a good death.”

The Last Samurai

  • Directors: Edward Zwick
  • Producers: Tom Cruise, Tom Engelman, Marshall Herskovitz, Scott Kroopf, Paula Wagner, Edward Zwick
  • Writers:
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, War
  • Actors: Tom Cruise, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Ken Watanabe, Hiroyuki Sanada, Koyuki Kato, Shin Koyamada

Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), born in United Kingdom but naturalized American, is a disenchanted Ex-United States Army captain, tortured by the guilt of his past transgressions against Native American civilians. After losing his previous job of sharing his old war experiences in public demonstrations, he is recruited by his former commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Bagley (Tony Goldwyn), whom Algren loathes and blames for his waking nightmares, on behalf of a Japanese businessman, Mr. Omura (Masato Harada). He is hired to help the new Meiji Restoration government train the new Western-style Imperial Japanese Army. With him are his old army colleague Zeb Gant (Billy Connolly) and Simon Graham, (Timothy Spall) a British translator.

Under the command of Bagley, Algren trains an army of peasants and farmers in firearm techniques, and before they are sufficiently trained, is forced to take them into battle to defend Omura’s investment in a new railway, against a group of samurai rebels led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). During the battle, the samurai slaughter Algren’s vulnerable soldiers, and Bagley withdraws from the field. Gant kills several samurai, but is soon killed. Algren manages to kill some samurai (including the samurai who killed Gant) with a pistol, a saber and a broken spear embroidered with a flag depicting a white tiger. Despite his best efforts he is soon overpowered. However, the flag on the spear reminds Katsumoto of a vision he had during meditation, of a white tiger fighting off his attackers. Seeing the resemblance, Katsumoto makes Algren his prisoner instead of letting his samurai kill him. In self-defense the badly wounded Algren deals a death blow to Katsumoto’s own brother-in-law, the red-masked Samurai, Hirotaro. He is taken to an isolated village, where he gradually recovers from his wounds (as well as his rampant alcoholism). He lives with the family of Hirotaro, namely his widow Taka, her two sons and Katsumoto’s son Nobutada (Shin Koyamada). Over time, Algren’s mental and emotional state improve as he learns the way of the samurai, (Bushido). He develops romantic feelings for Taka, studies swordsmanship from a skilled sword master (Ujio) and learning Japanese, converses with the local residents, gaining their respect.

The movie ends and the viewer realizes that the narrator of the story is Simon Graham. Algren then returns to the samurai village where he was imprisoned earlier, and to Taka. Graham philosophically concludes Algren found a measure of peace “that we all seek, and few of us ever find.”

Traffic

  • Directors: Steven Soderbergh
  • Producers: Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, Laura Bickford
  • Writers: Stephen Gaghan
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller
  • Actors: Michael Douglas, Benicio del Toro, Don Cheadle, Catherine Zeta Jones, Dennis Quaid

The film begins in Mexico, where police officer Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) and his partner, Manolo Sanchez (Jacob Vargas), stop a drug transport and arrest the couriers. Their arrest is interrupted by General Salazar (Tomás Milián), a high-ranking Mexican official, who decides to hire Rodriguez. Salazar instructs him to locate and apprehend Francisco Flores (Clifton Collins, Jr.), a notorious hit man for the Tijuana Cartel, headed by the Obregón brothers.

Meanwhile, Robert Wakefield (Douglas), a conservative Ohio judge, is appointed to head the President’s Office of National Drug Control, taking on the title drug czar. Wakefield is warned by his predecessor and several influential politicians that the War on Drugs is unwinnable. Unbeknownst to Wakefield, his honors student daughter, Caroline (Erika Christensen) has been using cocaine, and develops a drug addiction after her boyfriend Seth (Topher Grace) introduces her to freebase cocaine. Caroline and Seth are arrested when a fellow student overdoses on drugs at a party and they unsuccessfully try to dump him anonymously at a nearby hospital. Robert finds out that his wife Barbara (Amy Irving) has known about their daughter’s involvement with drugs for over six months.

A third story is set in San Diego, where an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation led by Montel Gordon (Don Cheadle) and Ray Castro (Luis Guzmán) leads to arrest of Eduardo Ruiz (Miguel Ferrer), a high-stakes dealer posing as a fisherman. Ruiz, who is hospitalized as the result of a gunshot wound from the arrest, decides to risk the dangerous road to immunity by giving up his boss: drug lord Carlos Ayala (Steven Bauer), the biggest distributor for the Obregón brothers in the United States. Ayala is indicted by a tough prosecutor, hand-selected by Wakefield in an attempt to send a message to the Mexican drug organizations.

Some aspects of the plotline are based on real-life characters and events. The character General Arturo Salazar is closely modeled after Mexican General Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, who was secretly on the payroll of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, head of the Juarez Cartel. The character Porfilio Madrigal is modeled after Fuentes. The Obregón brothers are similarly modeled after the Arellano Félix brothers.[1][2][3]