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In my review of Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent film The Departed, I wrote that for myself (the pre- Titanic days with films like The Basketball Diaries), DiCaprio has always been one of those actors that I simply continue to remark ‘one day this man is going to win an Oscar’. With The Departed and this film, Blood Diamond, catapulting DiCaprio into the higher range of quality actor, the Academy decided to nominate DiCaprio for the Best Actor statue for Blood Diamond rather than his better, and more popular, performance in The Departed.

Blood Diamond: Special Edition
In Blood Diamond, DiCaprio stars as Danny Archer, a diamond smuggler from Rhodesia. Before this though, we’re introduced to Solomon Vandy ( Amistad’s Djimon Hounsou) and his various family members. An increasing violent civil war causes the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to practically destroy Solomon’s village. Unfortunately for Solomon he’s captured by the RUF and is soon put to work in their diamond mining operations. Now this is the part where Danny is introduced. Playing the role of the smuggler, Danny is one of the few who’re able to sneak in diamonds. Naturally though the best catches up to Danny and he is soon arrested.

Everything seems to be progressing for Solomon until he discovers a large pink diamond. Realizing that he may be killed if he’s discovered stealing a diamond of this stature from the RUF, Solomon steals the diamond burying it in the nearby woods. Hoping to get his family back, Solomon is soon sent to jail after an altercation with RUF leader ‘Captain Poison’. Coincidentally enough Solomon is sent to the same jail that Danny is being housed in, causing these two seemingly polar opposite characters to meet. Solomon quickly learns that the RUF has his son, who has been put into the military. Danny, realizing the monetary value of this diamond, agrees to help Solomon get his son back if he gets the diamond. Along the way they run into Maddie (Jennifer Connelly), a NYC journalist who is researching the diamond industry.

As I mentioned above, the Academy decided to nominate DiCaprio for his performance in this film. While I do agree with their situation to a certain degree, it seemed like DiCaprio almost tried too hard with this performance here. Don’t let that sound like a big negative though, as his performance was still excellent. He nailed the accent and moods of a thief. Hounsou, who’ve I had only seen before in Spielberg’s Amistad, moulded himself into this situation perfectly making his character of Solomon seem like a true part of the ongoing situation.

Blood Diamond: Special Edition
What makes a film like Blood Diamond work is that Zwick presents not only a story we want to care about, but also characters we want to become invested in. Halfway through the film I wanted to know what was going to happen to Danny and Solomon. This key is also what has made two of Zwick’s other efforts (1989’s Glory and 2003’s The Last Samurai) the film’s they are. Speaking of Zwick, the director has done a fine job here with this story. While he directing say isn’t ‘Spielberg’ quality, Zwick is proving himself film after film. His craft is improving and even though Diamond isn’t his best effort to date, his decision to present a topic of this importance makes this film quite enjoyable.

Video


Sporting a 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Blood Diamond marks one of the first titles I’ve reviewed on the SD-DVD format after viewing countless HD/BD discs. Would the ‘downgrade’ from 1080p to 480i really be that bad? Well luckily for a film like Blood Diamond, the end result isn’t that bad.

Colour usage was good here with a lot of the colours coming off in a manner that captured the film’s themes. Particularly of note was the use of blacks. Since the film has its own fair share of darker sequences, I was quite pleased with how deep and sharp the blacks were. Grain was kept to a bare minimum never becoming noticeable except during some of the darker sequences (even though the film’s blacks were dynamite). The only real negative to mention here (and this is myself being extremely picky) is that I noticed a few halos here and there around the edges. Also some of the film’s darker colours, like greens, felt a bit overdone. Otherwise from that, this is a solid presentation.

Blood Diamond: Special Edition

Audio


Arriving with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (available in English, French and Spanish), Blood Diamond boasts a fantastic audio experience throughout the film

Dialogue was simple and clean never really becoming hard to hear or understand (I figured it might have during some of the more dynamic sequences). Speaking of dynamic, the film’s atmosphere was excellent. The rears weren’t active at all times, but when they became active, they were certainly ready to demonstrate. The sub was also effective to the point of added in a nice, subtle effect without becoming overly booming. This was a fine presentation by Warner.

Extras


‘Audio Commentary with Director Edward Zwick’: Director Zwick sits down for a feature-length commentary here. I’ve always been a fan of Zwick’s work dating back to 1989’s Glory, so I was definitely interested in what the man had to say. Topics like locales, script to screen and casting are spoken about. I highly enjoyed the subtleness that Zwick had throughout. He never became overly excited to the point where he’d yell or feel like he was jumping up, but rather showed deep emotion during his speech. Well worth a listen for fans of the film.

Blood Diamond: Special Edition
‘Blood on the Stone’: This documentary lasts about fifty minutes and looks into the history of diamonds and what they’ve meant to the continent of Africa. Most interestingly was how the actual diamonds are transported to the market and sold. A few interviews are also done with some real-life soldiers. This feature was the perfect length as it gave us just enough information on the topic to make it worth watching.

‘Becoming Archer’: This eight-minute feature focuses on DiCaprio and how he trained for the role via his research and physical training. We also get to hear comments from Dicaprio and director Zwick. While brief and to the point, I enjoyed this one as it acted as a kind of montage to DiCaprio’s performance.

‘Journalists on the Front Line’: This five-minute feature focuses more on the preparation that Jennifer Connelly went through for her part.

‘Inside the Siege of Freetown’: Running about ten minutes, this feature looks into the amount of effort that went into the recreation of the film’s battle. Director Zwick and various cast members speak to us the storyboards and various planning that went into this.

‘Music Video’: Lastly we get a music video for “Shine on ‘Em’” by artist Nas. I recently started listening to Nas and his catalogue and in a world full of rappers rapping about cars, women and money, it’s always a refreshing sign when artists like Nas rap about life.

Blood Diamond: Special Edition

Overall


Zwick has made a film about a troublesome time with skill by presenting characters we actual care about. Warner has put together a fairly solid DVD for Blood Diamond. The video quality was solid while the audio was excellent. The provided features were interesting and informative (especially the ‘Blood on the Stone’ documentary). While it would have been nice to see a HD version (big fan of both formats here), this one merits a hearty recommendation for fans and a very strong rental for those who’re curious.


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