Blood Diamond on DVD
From the package: "An ex-mercenary turned smuggler (Leonard DiCaprio). A Mende fisherman (Djimon Hounsou). Amid the explosive civil war overtaking 1999 Sierra Leone, these men join for two desperate missions: recovering a rare pink diamond of immense value and rescuing the fisherman's son, conscripted as a child soldier into the brutal rebel forces ripping a swath of torture and bloodshed across the alternately beautiful and ravaged countryside. Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai), this urgent, intensely moving adventure shapes gripping human stories and heart-pounding action into a modern epic of profound impact."
That's a pretty apt description. Blood Diamond is the gritty and involving story of a marriage of convenience between a diamond smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio), a fisherman trying to save his family (Djimon Hounsou) and a journalist who wants to change the world (Jennifer Connelly) as they try to track the huge diamond of the title.
Set against the background of violent civil war, this is a graphically violent movie and so it may not be for everyone. But it's also a very good movie, well made and well acted – though it's also a bit of Hollywood activism about "conflict diamonds" and why we shouldn't be buying them.
We begin with Solomon Vandy (Hounsou), a proud father walking along with his son, talking about dreams for the future. Suddenly, their lives are torn asunder as soldiers sweep over them and the father is dragged away, as it turns out to work as a slave laborer in a diamond mine.
Bad enough that he was stolen from his family, but life in the mine is a terrible experience, with death just an instant away. Security's tight, too, for the obvious reason that those in charge don't want their charges charging away with any of the diamonds they discover.
Then Solomon Vandy discovers a huge pink diamond, the stuff of dreams. He manages to hide it as, in another violent incident, the mine is raided by troops and he's hauled off to jail. Here he comes to the attention of Danny Archer (DiCaprio), ex soldier of fortune currently in jail for smuggling diamonds.
Archer, upon his release, gets Vandy released with him and basically cajoles him into leading him to the diamond by telling him he can help him reunite his family. And he does, kind of, with the help of bleeding heart journalist Maddy Bowen (Connelly) who wants Archer to give her the real story of the smuggling so that she can help end it through her writing – a typical journalistic delusion.
Naturally, it isn't as easy as outlined here. They run up against battles and other obstacles – and are sidetracked when they discover that the son Vandy had been dreaming with at film's opening has been taken by the rebel forces and was being brainwashed into becoming one of them.
It's a beautiful movie, photographically, but there's sure a lot of ugliness in it, undoubtedly reflecting the setting. But it's engrossing and moving at the same time, and the performances by the three main leads are all first rate (though it seems that DiCaprio may have forgotten his accent at least once during one of his more emotional outbursts).
Director Edward Zwick has crafted a compelling film that makes you want to take that engagement ring you bought down to the store to have it checked out for its status, if that is even possible after the fact. And that's undoubtedly part of the intent, since the movie is not only a drama but an advocacy piece as well.
And that's fine; at least they don't call it a documentary….
The DVD is available in various formats, but we received the two disc special edition, and it's a good package.
The movie is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the image quality is superb, with gorgeous color and sharp images. Audio, as it typical of Warners, is only offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround (no dts option is available), but the sound quality is very good. If you like explosions, you'll love how your subwoofer sounds here.
Extras on disc one include a running commentary from the director and the trailer. Disc two comes with "Blood on the Stone," a 50 minute documentary that follows the "life" of a diamond from the earth to the retailer, a profile ("Becoming Archer") of DiCaprio and his preparation for the role, and a feature on how the director handled the scene in which Freetown comes under siege.
There's also a short feature lionizing female journalists that is tiresomely predictable (these people are saints!) and a music video.
Blood Diamond, from Warner Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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