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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Blood Diamond: 2-Disc Special Edition
Blood Diamond: 2-Disc Special Edition
Warner Bros. // R // March 20, 2007
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted March 18, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Nominated for five Academy Awards and winner of none, Edward Zwick's Blood Diamond (2006) is a potentially great drama that gradually whittles itself down to "good". Our story revolves around Africa's tumultuous blood diamond trade, in which the precious stones are mined and sold to finance war efforts. The time and place: Sierra Leone, 1999, during the country's civil war (1991-2000). Tens of thousands have already died, while several million have been left homeless. Rebels cut off the hands of innocents to prevent them from voting.

Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a local fisherman, husband and father, has been separated from his family after the invasion of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Enslaved to work as a digger in the diamond fields, Solomon discovers a rare, pink diamond that he manages to keep hidden. He escapes after government troops execute an attack on the field, burying the diamond in a nearby area and fleeing for his life. He's determined to find his wife and children, nothing more.

Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a diamond smuggler from Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), eventually losing a large amount during his arrest near the Liberian border. During his brief stay in a local prison, Archer overhears a conversation about Solomon's diamond. After his release, they eventually cross paths; Solomon wants to continue his journey, but Archer promises to help him in exchange for the hidden treasure. More than anything else, he longs to leave Africa for greener pastures.

Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) is a New York journalist attempting to dig up facts on the blood diamond industry. An almost unrelenting optimist, Maddy shares a strong sense of justice with Archer, though without the cynical edge he's constructed from a violent past. Though she empathizes with Solomon and Archer's current situations (especially the former), her primary objective is to write about the truth.

Blood Diamond, among other things, is the story of these three individuals and how their motivations don't always connect. It serves as an interesting character study in some cases; a slightly convoluted jumble in others. Relationships---platonic and otherwise---are hinted at but never fully realized, often pushing the violent conflict off center stage. The suspense remains generally high, but certain stretches of this 143-minute film seem focused on the wrong areas. During Blood Diamond's attempts to juggle warfare, supporting characters, romance and friendship, the heavy load often proves to be too much. In short, the whole isn't always greater than the sum of its parts.

Still, Blood Diamond remains a successful effort in other areas. The performances are genuine, the characters interesting, and the twists are often surprising. Action sequences are brutal, fast-paced and gripping, constantly reminding us that these characters are in the middle of war. Those expecting a more clearly focused film may walk away slightly disappointed, but there's certainly enough here to make Blood Diamond worth checking out. Zwick's capable direction creates a perfectly watchable film, but it could've been truly memorable with some tightening around the edges.

Presented on DVD by Warner Bros., Blood Diamond arrives in separate one and two-disc editions; the latter is the subject of today's review. This two-disc edition adds a few extras to the pot, but those simply interested in the film will appreciate its excellent technical presentation. Let's take a closer look, shall we?

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen displays, Blood Diamond looks very good from start to finish. The gritty, rough atmosphere of the film has been preserved well, boasting strong black levels and good image detail. Colors are also rendered well; some may find them a bit too saturated at times, but this also appears to the film's intended look. Digital problems are almost non-existent, though a few mild edge halos can be spotted along the way. It's not quite a perfect transfer, but there's very little to complain about here.

The audio mix certainly doesn't disappoint; presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (also available in French and Spanish), Blood Diamond boasts a convincing atmosphere that fans will enjoy. Dialogue sounds clean and clear, while the rear channels and subwoofer are frequently put to good use. English, French and Spanish subtitles, as well as Closed Captioning support, have been included during the main feature. Frustratingly, all extras are only paired with French subtitles.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

Seen above, the static menu designs are easy to navigate. The 143-minute main feature has been divided into 33 chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This two-disc release is housed in a black hinged keepcase; a slipcover is included in lieu of an insert.

Bonus Features

Disc 1 leads off with a feature-length Audio Commentary by director Edward Zwick, who does a fine job of flying solo during the 143-minute film. Formula-wise, it's a fairly standard track, touching upon the film's pre-production, story elements, cast experiences, location shoots and post-production work, though Zwick seems well-organized from start to finish. It's an interesting commentary that fans should enjoy, though we'll hear overlap with a few other extras. Also included here is the film's Theatrical Trailer, presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.

Disc 2 begins with "Blood on the Stone" (50:11, below left), a documentary directed and narrated by journalist Sorious Samura. It's essentially a more grounded explanation of the African diamond conflicts, mixing location footage with interviews of former soldiers, local miners and others involved in the process. Though "Blood on the Stone" only scratches the top layers, it stands in good contrast with the main feature and is probably the best extra of the bunch.

A trio of featurettes is next, including "Becoming Archer" (8:32), which focuses on star Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as Danny Archer. We also hear from select members of the cast and crew, though this is a fairly promotional affair from start to finish. On a similar note is "Journalists on the Front Line" (5:12), directing the spotlight towards co-star Jennifer Connelly. Our third and final featurette is "Inside the Siege of Freetown" (10:27, above right), a slightly more detailed look at the recreation of the actual battle. Touching on Blind Diamond's attempts to maintain realism, we also get a glimpse of the storyboards and planning process, as well as words from the stunt and effects supervisors.

Closing things out is a Music Video for Nas' track "Shine On 'Em", a respectable effort that continues the film's anti-"conflict diamond" themes. All bonus features are presented in a widescreen aspect ratio; frustratingly enough, only two of them have been anamorphically enhanced (the trailer and "Blood on the Stone"). As mentioned earlier, our only subtitle option for the extras is French; this is especially frustrating during Samura's documentary.

Final Thoughts

It's almost ambitious to a fault, but Blood Diamond combines a strong atmosphere with several interesting characters to keep things moving. Their motivations are what drive the story forward, though it's these same motivations that occasionally trip things up. Still, Blood Diamond doesn't always play it safe, churning out suspense and drama with energy to spare. Warner's two-disc Special Edition pairs an excellent technical presentation with a few decent extras, but some fans may be content with the single-disc edition. Either way, those new to the film should rent it first, while those who enjoyed what they saw theatrically should be pleased with Warner's efforts. Mildly Recommended.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.
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