Plot: What’s it about?
When the Revolutionary United Front stormed into his village and began killing innocent people, Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) managed to survive. He was spared because he was suitable to work in the rebels’ diamond mine, so he worked as a slave after his capture. He watched as those who tried to smuggle diamonds, even small ones, for themselves were killed on the spot, but he found himself willing to risk such a fate. He unearthed a large, pink diamond and while he had it hidden well, he was caught, though a raid on the site allowed him to live. After the government troops arrested him, Solomon found himself in prison, which is where mercenary turned diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) also happens to be. Archer learns of the pink diamond, has Solomon released, and promises to help reunite the man with his family, as long as he takes Archer to the diamond. The two men travel together, but soon enlist the help of reporter Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), who wants to make a different and Archer promises an epic story if she lends a hand. As these three very different, but very motivated people work together to achieve their own goals, will any of them succeed or even survive?
Blood Diamond was nominated for a handful of Oscars, but failed to beat out the competition. The movie has ambition to burn, wanting to draw attention to social issues like children recruited as soldiers, bloodshed over diamonds, and the general conditions in some African cities. In addition to pushing those issues, Blood Diamond also tries to be a character study on the three primary leads and while all this goes on, create a compelling cinematic experience. The movie is good, no doubt about that, but I think it tries to do too much at once. As such, it loses focus often or shifts focus at inopportune moments, taking us out of a story too soon to move us elsewhere. Had there been a more focused approach, Blood Diamond could have been great, but make no mistake, this is still a more than solid picture. Djimon Hounsou is excellent in his role here, while Jennifer Connelly and Leonardo Di Caprio also provide good turns. I personally think DiCaprio’s performance was a little overpraised, but he does well here and makes a good on screen tandem with Hounsou. Warner has issued a single disc version, as well as this double disc Special Edition. If you’re a fan of extras, then you’ll want this two disc collection. But as good as the movie is, I don’t think it lends itself to frequent views, so while I do recommend Blood Diamond, I think a rental is sufficient.
Video: How does it look?
Blood Diamond is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This movie has a very natural, sometimes gritty visual design, but this transfer handles all needs of the material. The colors are bright and natural at all times with no signs of errors, and flesh tones always appear normal and without flaw. I also found no problems with the contrast, which features complex shadow structure and very high visible detail levels, even in the darkest of areas. This transfer looks very good, but I have to admit, I’d love to see what the film would look like in high definition.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release included a Dolby Digital 5.1 track which perfectly handles all the audio, from the subtle atmospheric effects to the powerful and speaker shaking ones. This movie isn’t always audio driven and during those times the surrounds are content to play second fiddle as dialogue dominates, with crisp and clear vocals and no volume issues. The score is also not always overpowering and usually has a deep and enrapturing soundscape, very effective. When the audio does kick into high gear though you’ll know it as all the speakers come to life to provide an excellent experience. I could find no problems with this mix and was amazed at times with how well it handled the transitions. This release also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Edward Zwick provides his director’s comments and while filling nearly two and a half hours of space seems daunting, Zwick is up to the task. He covers a lot of ground over the course of the movie, from pre-production to the development process to the shoot itself, as well as post-production. If there is something you’d like to know about Blood Diamond, more than likely Zwick covers it in this extensive session. Blood on the Stone is a fifty minute piece on the real world blood diamonds, not as flashy as the film portrays, but still rough business. The documentary has footage shot on location, which adds a lot to the movie experience, while interviews with those involved provides even more perspective. This release also includes a Nas music video for Shine On ‘Em, three brief featurettes, and the film’s theatrical trailer.