Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond (2006)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Production Diaries, Music Video, Theatrical Trailer

Edward Zwick has directed a number of wonderfully crafted dramas that also deliver in the action department among other things. "Glory" and "The Last Samurai" come to mind immediately. Being a fan of these two films, I was genuinely excited to see this movie because I had missed it in the theaters initially and skipped it on DVD because I knew it would eventually arrive in the high definition format (and I was surprised it wasn't day and date as the DVD version). I was thrilled to get my hands on this Blu-Ray Disc to be quite honest.

"Blood Diamond" starts off very intensely, as we are introduced to Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a fisherman and a family man who lives near Sierra Leone in Africa. His village is ruthlessly attacked by a group of bloodthirsty, machete-wielding lunatics known as a resistance group called the RUF (Revolutionary United Front). They slaughter, rape and pillage, and the scenes are very graphic and jarring. The violence is extreme as they hack off the arms of children as a bloody message to those who resist, but they 'spare' Solomon to let him be a slave and mine for diamonds. We soon find that this is a rather harsh fate, even as he discovers a huge and extremely rare pink diamond as he mines under the guard of gun wielding rebels. He sneaks the precious stone between his toes and buries it, but not before he is witnessed by the film's central villain, Captain Poison (David Harewood). Harewood makes quite an impression and is a truly menacing figure. Alas the tense confrontation between the two is avoided as the illegal mining camp is captured and arrested by the government army. Now in jail, Poison reveals to everyone that Solomon has found this mythic stone, so there is now a price on his head.

I have been very impressed with Leonardo DeCaprio's choices in roles over the last few years and "Blood Diamond" is no exception. In this film he plays Danny Archer, a South African ex-mercenary who has become a smuggler of diamonds. His character is that of Jack Bauer ("24") meets Rick Blaine ("Casablanca"). The way he plays the character is cool and collected and he reveals himself very little to the people in the movie or to the audience for that matter. We learn about him as we go along, and we never really trust him from the opening moments when he lands in a plane to pull of a shady arms deal. Quickly it becomes evident that he is obsessed with profit and when he learns of Solomon's pink diamond he quickly acts to get him released. But apart from pulling strings, Archer also knows how to handle things when the heat is on, and how to get out alive among the bloody African uprisings. But, as we are all constantly reminded, freedom has a price.

In this case Archer supposedly wants to split the profit with Vandy after he helps him track down his family and then find the diamond. After meeting the idealistic journalist, Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) at a bar, Archer makes her part of the game by promising her exclusive rights to the story she is looking for, a bloody story of conflict diamonds and corruption to the highest level, a story of civil war. From here all hell breaks loose as the whole city erupts in chaos and violence as the three characters each search for something different on the same violent path. The action scenes are explosive and awesome to behold and we have many scenes that will have your adrenaline racing.

Without a doubt, this is a great action movie, and one with a message. You will come away with a much better understanding of the diamond trade, and it is fascinating, to be sure. The chemistry between DiCaprio and Connelly is truly something amazing as well, especially since there isn't one sex scene in the whole film, they are too wrapped up in their current situations and selfish obsessions to have time for such diversions.

"Blood Diamond" makes its debut on this Blu-Ray Disc in a wonderful 1080p high definition transfer restoring the film's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The colors are very vibrant, giving the image a lively richness and underscoring the beauty of the landscapes. This is a movie you simply MUST see in high definition, especially because there is a lot to look at in this film in particular – and much of it is in broad daylight, so the colors really do pop off the screen while skin tones are very nicely reproduced, as are the excellent costume designs. You will find yourself getting lost in the background here all the while being equally impressed by the battle scenes and explosions. As I said, all social commentary aside, this is one great action movie. I didn't detect any blemishes or notice any edge enhancement and the dark scenes were extremely detailed. I am very happy with this disc in the video department.

The release doesn't hold back in the audio department either. Coming with a flawless 5.1 PCM track this is one of those films that will shake the house. Bullets slice through the room with very directional precision and surround channels are constantly active, adding to the film. Dialogue comes through very clean and always remains understandable. James Newton Howard's score is excellent and very nicely complements the scenes in the film with a touch of exotic instrumentation and rhythms.

Moving on to the special features we have a commentary track by Edward Zwick.

'Blood On The Stone' a fascinating, but very graphic and brutal documentary that has some scenes of real life violence and misery as we 'follow a Diamond's Path From The Ground To The Store'.

'Becoming Archer' is self explanatory, it is an interesting but short segment on DeCaprio's voice coaching and gun training. It also stresses the importance of filming on location in Africa.

'Journalism On The Front Line' is a feature I was actually quite excited to watch, but was ultimately disappointed with because it is nothing more than another one of those features that shows a bunch of clips from the movie. I was expecting something a little deeper in these days of danger we live in where journalists are regularly kidnapped and murdered in far-off countries. I expected to actually meet one of these journalists, or at least hear a name reference, but no, just typical EPK stuff.

'Inside The Siege Of Freetown' which follows the filming and devotion to realism of the movie that Edward Zwick and the crew attempted to capture. Pretty interesting, mainly because they filmed on location, and seemed concerned with the effects some of the more explosive scenes would have on the community around them, especially since the area is trying hard to rise from the violence of its recent past. I think the filmmakers want to remind us that they are not exploiting this culture for money, but to tell the story.

We also have a very extensive group of featurettes and production diaries on the release that cover every element of the making of this film; luckily it gives you the option of playing them all at once.

We also have a music video by Nas called "Shine On 'Em" in which he is wearing no bling bling whatsoever, and a theatrical trailer. It is noteworthy however that none of the special features are in high definition.

"Blood Diamond" is a very good action movie with something of a social consciousness behind it. I am sure it is riddled with inaccuracies and takes certain creative liberties, but I don't think it is detrimental to the experience as a whole, because I admire it for being so entertaining while at the same time at least trying to reveal injustice in the world. I never saw the appeal of diamonds, but must admit after seeing the recent work of art by Damien Hirst, called 'For The Love Of God', (a human skull with 8,601 diamonds attached to it and a huge pink one in the forehead, just like the one that is featured in the movie), that they definitely still have their place in the world. It's worth almost 100 million dollars, and is truly something to see, look it up. I think Hirst's art object and the movie are trying to make the same point and spending about the same amount of money to drive it home. I like the movie for what it is, and I think you will love it on Blu-Ray.