Although I have not been the biggest fan of Leonard DiCaprio as an actor, this is probably one of the best films he has participated in as was the case with Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can. Edward Zwick who directed this film (he also directed The Last Samurai and Glory) creates one of his most taunt thrillers audiences have seen thus far from him. After watching Zwick's Legends of the Fall, it gives you the impression that he became the kind of director who was too busy making shots look pretty than telling a really good story. This is where he proves me wrong. Although he is a director who often casts actors who to me don't look or act like a person stuck in that situation as Tom Cruise didn't seem like in The Last Samurai or Brad Pitt didn't look like a man going insane in the forest in Legends of the Fall as this reviewer believes is also the case with DiCaprio (sometimes he's just too pretty looking even here), the rest of the cast and film make it up for it plenty.
Djimon Hounsou (the leader of the slave ship in Spielberg's Amistad) totally steals the show as a Sierra Leone man caught up in the many hostilities going on at that time (the 90's) where diamonds financed a civil war. He is our true main character trying to reunite with his family and find his young son who has been captured by Rebels to be trained as a killer, which was a regular occurrence at that time. Just watching Hounsou makes you realize the power he has as an actor and how he can really move the film along. DiCaprio does try his best, but sometimes he is too aware of himself as an actor at times where he acts badass here and then actor-ish there in this film as well in another 2006 film, The Departed. Jennifer Connelly does a very good job as an American reporter in this as well as the often underrated Arnold Vosloo (known for the title characters in The Mummy and Darkman II: The Return of Durant) playing a sadistic colonel. Since Vosloo is an authentic South African, one would think he would have been more appropriate in DiCaprio's role and he wouldn't have to put on an accent, but then again we wouldn't have gotten such a great supporting role.
It is a very disturbing film, but yet again an honest one. The suspense is top-notch, the situations these characters get in make you flinch, and the stakes are comparable to another great film about African men stuck in a civil war, Hotel Rwanda. Makes you think twice about buying diamonds at your local jeweler.