The latest effort from "Glory" and "Last Samurai" director Ed Zwick, "Blood Diamond" takes place in Sierra Leone in 1999. The film revolves around "conflict diamonds", diamonds smuggled out of Africa and sold on the world market, done so to finance rebel groups and fund war. Early in the picture, Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a poor fisherman living in a small village in the Sierra Leone, is torn away from his family by a rebel group and forced to work mining for diamonds. One day, he finds a huge pink diamond and hides it just as a government raid occurs.
While locked up, Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) overhears Solomon's story and, when he fnds out that Solomon has found a diamond, he offers to help reunite him with his family in exchange for leading him to the diamond. Solomon is a smuggler who makes a living getting diamonds out of the country to the fictional Van De Kaap diamond company where they're laundered and wind up on the open market. Along for help is American journalist Maddy Brown (Jennifer Connelly, in an underwritten role), who's trying to do a story on the conflict diamonds.
Part action/adventure and part message movie/drama (with a bit of a romantic bit shoehorned in with the Dicaprio/Connelly characters), "Blood Diamond" starts to feel a bit repetitive as the movie heads into the last third, the film's push against conflict diamonds is certainly agreeable, but it does get heavy-handed at times. The film's action sequences also do not shy away from the kind of violence that occured during this situation - the film is definitely R-rated for a reason.
The film's other issue is that the length is just a bit too much, considering the fact that the story isn't as epic as running time would suggest and it's also rather formulaic. Additionally, the movie seems to be at a reasonably end point, then just keeps going for another 20 minutes or so. While the film is rather overlong, the film's performances manage to keep the interest, as Dicaprio is excellent and Honsou is marvelous in an intense performance as a man who will stop at nothing to find his loved ones. The two have a good on-screen chemistry, as well. Connelly does the best with a part that really doesn't add a great deal to the picture and could likely have been dropped. The film certainly looks its budget, with stunning widescreen cinematography from Eduardo Serra ("Girl With a Pearl Earring".)
Overall, "Blood Diamond" wasn't without some issues, but this is generally a compelling look at this tragic and horrifying subject that offers solid performances from the leads.
VIDEO: "Blood Diamond" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. The presentation quality isn't without some concerns, but is mostly pleasing. The picture never appears noticably soft, but some scenes look less crisp than others, and some scenes offer detail that's just a bit above average.
The presentation did suffer from some minor edge enhancement and light artifacting in a handful of scenes, but the elements used appeared clean. Colors looked well-saturated and accurate, with no smearing or other issues. Flesh tones also looked natural, as well.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was impressive, using the surrounds to good effect during the film's many chaotic sequences, delivering various sound effects like gunfire and providing reinforcement for the score. While there are some dialogue-driven passages, it's not long between moments of aggressive sound use in this film. Audio quality was fine, with crisp, undistorted dialogue and powerful sound effects.
EXTRAS: Director Ed Zwick provides an audio commentary on the first disc. The second disc starts off with "Blood on the Stone", an over 45-minute documentary that looks into the realities of conflict diamonds. We follow along and see both the mining operations and how diamonds are taken out of the country. It's an informative behind-the-scenes look that does a great job taking viewers into the middle of the conflict diamond situation, which - despite attempts - still exists today. "Becoming Archer" is a short featurette that looks at Dicaprio's preparation for the role. It's a little promotional in spots, but not a bad look at Dicaprio's work in the film. "Journalists on the Front Line" takes a look at Connelly's character and how the actress prepared for her part as a journalist on the front line. Finally, "Siege at Freetown" is a look at the preparation and filming of one of the biggest sequences in the film. There's also a music video from Nas and the trailer.
Final Thoughts: Overall, "Blood Diamond" wasn't without some issues, but this is generally a compelling look at this tragic and horrifying subject that offers solid performances from the leads. The DVD boasted fine audio/video quality and a nice set of supplements. While most will be happy with the single disc edition, the Special Edition does provide an excellent documentary on the second DVD that gievs more insight into the situation.
The Film B