Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Blood Diamond (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer
Djimon Hounsou as Solomon Vandy
Jennifer Connelly as Maddy Bowen
Caruso Kuypers as Dia Vandy
Arnold Vosloo as Colonel Coetzee
Antony Coleman as Cordell Brown
Benu Mabhena as Jassie Vandy
David Harewood as Captain Poison
Basil Wallace as Benjamin Kapanay
Jimi Mistry as Nabil
Michael Sheen as Simmons
Marius Weyers as Van De Kaap
Stephen Collins as Ambassador Walker
Ntare Mwine as M'Ed
Ato Essandoh as Commander Rambo

Special Features:
Commentary by director Edward Zwick
"Blood on the Stone" documentary: Follow the path of a diamond from the ground to the store
Featurettes: Becoming Archer (a profile of Leonardo DiCaprio and how he trained for the war), Journalism on the Front Line (Jennifer Connelly on women journalists at war), Inside the Siege of Freetown (see how Ed Zwick tackled the pivotal scene)
Music video: "Shine On Em" by rap artist Nas
Theatrical trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Languages
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 143 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

"An ex-mercenary turned smuggler (Leonardo 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."

"Blood Diamond" is rated R for strong violence and language.

The Movie:
At its surface, "Blood Diamond" looks like just another political film. And make no mistake about it, this is a political film. It portrays the horrors of African civil wars, children being brainwashed into being soldiers, murder, torture, and more. It also shows how desire for diamonds and precious resources from the West contributes to conflicts in Africa. It will certainly make women briefly think twice before wanting a big diamond engagement ring. (Hey! The perfect date movie, guys!)

But while delivering its political message, "Blood Diamond" is also a great action film. The fight scenes in the film are intense, breathtaking, and well choreographed. The fact that Danny, Solomon, and Maddy are in real mortal jeopardy makes their situation all the more engaging. Fellow CS movie reviewer Ed Douglas found fault with the film because of the "Hollywood action", but it actually made "Blood Diamond" more engaging for me. I guess I have popcorn flick tastes.

The performances in "Blood Diamond" are all first rate. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers one of his most macho roles as Danny Archer. Fortunately, he manages to be convincing as he shoots guns, kills bad guys, and skins baboons. Djimon Hounsou is also noteworthy as Solomon Vandy. He perfectly captures a father's grief and rage as he tries to get his kidnapped son back. And then there's Jennifer Connelly as Maddy Bowen. She plays a spunky reporter with a mission who gravitates to dangerous locations.

My only real gripe is that "Blood Diamond" is a little long. At a two and a half hour running time, some of Danny and Solomon's repeated trips into danger become a little repetitive. But the beautiful locations, interesting music, and intriguing story make up for many of its faults.

The Extras:
Despite being a two disc set, there's actually very little on the making of the movie itself. There's your standard commentary by director Edward Zwick and a couple of brief featurettes about Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly (on women journalists at war). However, the real centerpiece of the bonus features is "Blood on the Stone," a 50 minute documentary following the illegal diamond trade. They visit the locations where the real events from the film took place, they talk to former child soldiers, and more. The trail even leads to New York where some of the diamonds are sold. It's an interesting in-depth documentary.

Rounding out the extras is the music video "Shine On Em" by rap artist Nas and the theatrical trailer.

The Bottom Line:
If you like action movies, you should enjoy "Blood Diamond." Fans of any of the lead actors should also be very pleased with their performances. If you're looking for a hardcore political film, you may be happier with the bonus features than the film itself.

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