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Blood Diamond’ sparkles on special-edition DVD

Sean Sweany | Thursday, March 29, 2007

Very seldom do movies come along that combine an all-star cast, heavy action and a compelling moral message into a successful and cohesive package. “Blood Diamond” is one of those movies.

This Ed Zwick (“The Last Samurai”) film examines what happens when diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a fisherman named Solomon (Djimon Hounsou, “The Island”) cross paths in war-torn Sierra Leone while rescuing both a rare and immensely valuable pink diamond and the fisherman’s kidnapped son from savage militia forces.

What ensues is a tense and jealous conflict between Archer’s desire for the diamond and Solomon’s quest to reunite with his son. Each man is forced to help the other in order to achieve his goals, until each realizes he is working harder to help the other man than himself.

A war journalist (Jennifer Connelly) who accompanies the two men serves as the lens through which the events of the movie occur, offering insights and challenges to their dilemma, but never judging anyone’s actions, no matter how selfish they may be.

The actors in “Blood Diamond” are superb, especially DiCaprio and Hounsou, whose performances earned them Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively. DiCaprio shows a dark and tormented side – while pulling off a South African accent – that continually forces the audience to question his motives and morals.

This movie is Hounsou’s jump from obscure supporting actor to lead actor, for his role is just as central to “Blood Diamond” as DiCaprio’s. He handles the spotlight with ease and demonstrates that he has the ability to act right alongside the major players in Hollywood.

The tale “Blood Diamond” tells is very human, but the scope is as epic of any of Zwick’s prior films, including his most recent, “The Last Samurai.” The main action scene in the film is the recreation of the siege of Freetown, a 1999 rebel attack on Sierra Leone’s capital city. The violent and brutal scene lasts several minutes and is heavy on gunshots, explosions and adrenaline, setting the tone for the rest of the film.

The third critical component of “Blood Diamond” is the gripping message it tells about “conflict diamonds” – diamonds acquired in war-torn countries like Sierra Leone of the 1990s and sold on the world market. The images and plot (which is inspired by a true story) give audiences cause to stop and wonder where our jewelry really comes from.

The two-disc special edition DVD has special features that give viewers further cause to wonder about this important topic. “Blood on the Stone” is an informative hour-long documentary that details the journey of a diamond from the earth to the store, shedding light on this sometimes difficult and tension-filled process.

Other features include an inside look at the effort put into the siege of Freetown sequence and an insightful commentary from Zwick. The presentation of the film is excellent, especially highlighting the sound editing and mixing, which also earned “Blood Diamond” an Oscar nomination.

While “Blood Diamond” did not win any Oscars among its five nominations, this does not detract from the fact that it was one of the best films of 2006. Strong acting combines with an exciting and thought-provoking story that keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end. While the two-disc DVD does not overflow with features, there is a perfect mix of extras that detail both the film and its message. Just like the title suggests, “Blood Diamond” is ultimately all about a mix – between brutality and beauty – where we all must find a happy medium.