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BLOOD DIAMOND
Two Disc Special Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Sheen, ArnoldVosloo
Director: Edward Zwick
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 143 Minutes
Release Date: March 20, 2007

“Don’t tell me you’re here to make a difference.”

“And you’re here to make a buck?”

“I’m here for lack of a better idea.”

“That’s a shame.”

“Not really. Peace Corps types only stay around long enough to realize they’re not helping anyone. Government only wants to stay in power until they’ve stolen enough to go into exile somewhere else. And the rebels, they’re not sure they want to take over, otherwise they’d have to govern this mess. But TIA, right M’Ed?"

“What’s TIA?”

“THIS IS AFRICA.”

Film ****

I honestly can’t remember the last time a single movie thrilled me with action packed entertainment while at the same time telling a story of the most thought-provoking kind. Blood Diamond is a film that achieves extravagantly in both areas. Director Edward Zwick, who from Glory right up to The Last Samuari has become one of the top filmmakers of large-scale period piece/adventures, has crafted an epic film of true monumental proportions.

Set in war torn Sierra Leone in 1999, the film tells a devastating story that sheds light on how priceless diamonds make their way from Africa to the jewelry market. After watching the movie, you may want to think twice about the next diamond you purchase. The film isn’t protesting the purchasing of diamonds, just against the buying and selling of those that come out of conflict, known as “conflict diamonds”.

At the center of the story is Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) a fisherman and a devoted family man. As the story opens, Solomon is separated from his family following an invasion from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). He is kidnapped by the group and forced to work as a digger in the diamond fields.

Not long after being enslaved, Solomon discovers a rare pink diamond, and a large one at that. He succeeds in keeping it hidden. After government troops invade the digging site, Solomon flees with one intention, to find his wife and children.

We are then introduced to Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) a South African and ex mercenary who now works as a smuggler of many desired goods, particularly diamonds. When Danny gets word of the diamond that Solomon supposedly buried, he attempts to persuade the fisherman to show him where it’s hidden in exchange for helping him find his family. The truth is Danny wants to cash in on the diamond, pay off a debt he owes, rid himself of Africa and save his own neck.

Danny gets an unexpected thorn in his side in the form of Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), an American journalist who is looking to write a piece on blood diamonds. At first, Danny wants nothing to do with any journalist, but soon enough Maddy tags along with him and Solomon as they set out to find the diamond and his family. She may also inspire Danny to, in addition to opening up about why he sells the diamonds, find his conscience and see that there is something bigger at stake than just the reward of a diamond.

Another devastating aspect of Blood Diamond is the depiction of young African children being recruited by RUF forces, who train them to kill anyone opposed to their beliefs. Both this and the diamond slave trade were featured in the heavily underrated Lord of War, but the horrific reality of this matter is revealed even more in this film. It’s simply startling to see that this plays into selling of conflict diamonds.

Every aspect of Blood Diamond is absolutely riveting. The first thing that should be mentioned are the performances. Both DiCaprio and Hounsou were deservingly rewarded with Oscar nominations for their work here.

Leo, who I thought would never equal his outstanding work in The Departed does exactly that with his performance as Danny Archer. Equipped with a thoroughly believable South African accent, DiCaprio creates a remarkably complex character. His sharp wit makes him likeable from the start, but there are times during the coarse of the story when we’re not quite sure where his loyalties lie.

And Djimon Hounsou provides the film’s heart and soul. Watching him as he desperately tries to save his family from the clutches of evil, you can’t help but experience heartbreak as Solomon learns that one of his sons has been kidnapped and recruited by the RUF. Hounsou has delivered many great performances before, but this represents the actor’s most powerful work yet.

In addition to the invigorating storytelling, Zwick manages to stage some of the most intense action sequences to ever be experienced on celluloid. Zwick’s masterful camerawork enhances the action and makes it feel extremely authentic. The many action scenes leave you on the edge of your seat, most especially a climatic scene involving a helicopter raid that even challenges the level of Mission Impossible III for the year’s single best action sequence.

All of these elements add up to a film that has found itself quite high on my Ten Best list for 2006, third place to be exact next to The Departed and Babel. Blood Diamond is another exhilarating cinematic epic from Edward Zwick, a filmmaker who’s well on his way to becoming the David Lean of contemporary cinema. And this film just may be his biggest triumph yet. Any film that can blend astounding action and mind-challenging storytelling is, to me, a true form of superior filmmaking.

Video ****

This Warner release is a truly excellent looking disc. The picture is stunning, gorgeously enhancing the fantastic cinematography of Eduardo Serra. The African landscape looks and feels as real as it can possibly get. Colors are nothing short of breathtaking, in addition. And there are no images flaws whatsoever to be found here. Truly one of the best looking discs so far this year.

Audio ****

WOW! This 5.1 mix beautifully accompanies the grand technical areas associated with this epic film. Everything from dialogue delivery to the rousing music score from James Newton Howard to the pulse-pounding action sequences place this sound presentation at an ultra superior level.

Features ****

Shoot for this Two Disc Special Edition if you want the great features, as a single disc version will be released as well.

Disc One includes a commentary track with Edward Zwick and a Theatrical Trailer.

Disc Two features four terrific documentaries; “Blood On The Stone”, which explores the reality of the buying and selling of conflict diamonds, “Becoming Archer: Profiling Leonardo DiCaprio” which explores the actor’s creation of the performance, “Journalism on the Front Line” takes a look at the real life female journalists which inspired the character played by Jennifer Connelly and  “Inside the Siege of Freetown” offers director Edward Zwick’s take on one of the film’s biggest scenes. Lastly, there is a music video for the Nas song, "Shine On 'Em".

Summary:

Blood Diamond is masterful and riveting on so many different levels. It manages to be both a film with a serious political message about an important topic and a popcorn adventure flick at the same time. Those qualities, along with the acting and the directing make this a film you simply can’t afford to miss!

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