'Blood Diamond (Two-Disc Special Edition)'
(Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers, Benu Mabhena, et al / 2-Disc DVD / R / (2006) 2007 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: Set against the backdrop of civil war and chaos in 1990's Sierra Leone, Blood Diamond is the story of Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) - an ex Mercenary from Zimbabwe - and Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) - a Mende fisherman. Both men are African, but their histories as different as any can be, until their fates become joined in a common quest to recover a rare pink diamond that can transform their lives. While in prison for smuggling, Archer learns that Solomon - who was taken from his family and forced to work in the diamond fields - has found and hidden the extraordinary rough stone.
DVD Verdict: Edward Zwick's films always strike a good chord with me because of their incredible emotional impact. The Last Samurai left such a grand impact on me that I was in tears at its incredible and emotional climax. 'Blood Diamond' does the same thing by establishing strong central characters with a clear objective that makes the film gripping and tense. The story revolves around Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) a local fisherman whose village is raided by local militia who are at civil war over the control over the diamond fields. These events took place in the late 90's and it serves as the backdrop of the film. Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a Rhodesian smuggler who works for a corporate diamond company in London he also works as a mercenary.
He smuggles diamonds to the corporations so that they can remove them off of the market thus keeping supply low and demand high, that way they spike the prices. After Vendi is removed from his village and his family separated, he is put to work in the diamond fields where he comes across a pink diamond so rare that it could change the fate of not only his life but a nation's. Vandy is able to escape his imprisonment by the rebels but is put in prison by the police, and in prison he meets Danny Archer who now wants to set his sights on the hidden diamond. When Archer meets Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), an American journalist, she believes that his story holds the key to revealing the truth behind the diamond corporations. When Vandy's son is recruited by the rebels he sets out on a quest to find his son while Archer wants the diamond so that he can leave Africa and start his troubled life over. Arnold Vosloo plays a general who is also after the diamond. So we have four people after one small stone for four different reasons.
The film has many sides to it. At times it's a dark look into the social and economical conflicts of Africa, sometimes it becomes a burning commentary on the nature of man, but overall this film is an intimate story of three characters placed within the setting. The main objective of the film is to tell the story of the characters where as in films like Tears Of The Sun or Black Hawk Down it's more about sending a central message. I'm not saying the latter films are bad, I enjoyed Tears Of The Suns and Black Hawk Down immensely. I'm also not saying that Blood Diamond is not trying to send a central message either. It's just that Blood Diamond really tries to tell a story, just like Zwick did with The Last Samurai. While the film portrayed a civil struggle in Japan it was more focused on Tom Cruise's and Ken Watanabe's characters so that when tragedy struck it had a strong emotional impact on the audience.
'Blood Diamond' is not only emotional but it's incredibly tense and thrilling. There is lots of action in the film and the final air raid was executed perfectly. The story is solid and the film is an immense accomplishment. The reason why I knocked off half a star from my final rating was that I had two minor problems with the movie. There were places where a few tweaks could have heightened the emotional impact of the film and have kept the pace of the film more consistent. However, it is whithout a doubt that the film was superbly edited. The pace and structure were very consistant and strong. I was pleased by the script, Charles Leavitt did a fine job with the screenplay even though he has taken a long break from writing since his last effort with K-Pax. The second thing that bothered me was that once the movie ends and the credits start to roll we are hit with this hardcore rap song. I was absolutely shocked and disapointed with the decision to use rap in the end credits, it ruined the lasting effect of the film within a split second.
The film also displays some incredible artistic efforts. The cinematography is absolutely stunning. There is a very good chance that Eduardo Serra should be one of the directors of photography nominated this year at the Oscars. Some of the shots were truly breathtaking and of course you have to give credit to beautiful landscapes of Africa. The film's score was composed by James Newton Howard who relied heavily on African vocals for the amazing score.
I have to mention here that Hans Zimmer is the pioneer of incorporating native sounds into a film's score based on location. Zimmer made African vocals his speciality with films like 'A World Apart,' 'The Power Of One,' 'The Lion King,' and 'Tears Of The Sun.' You have to acknowledge the Zimmer style in the score, but James Newton Howard makes it completely his own and delivers an amazing score. There were scenes where I wished the score was more prominent, but overall I was very happy with the musical efforts. All of the artistic efforts put together with the story make 'Blood Diamond' what it is.
So, does Leonardo DiCaprio give his best performance yet? In my opinion I really think so. He was amazing in the film and created a perfectly accessible character that we cared for. Many people are criticizing his accent when in fact he is using an extremely authentic Rhodesian accent. People assume that since he is white and an African he must be South African. That's not the case here, people. DiCaprio does an amazing job with the role. Djimon Hounsou is also equally amazing in the film. There are a few intimate scenes with his son that will bring you to tears. He plays an uneducated fisherman with his only interests in his family, but it is his character that shows the good of mankind in the middle of this mess. Jennifer Connelly is a great actress and she portrays a journalist just as a journalist would act. She uses her wits and looks to get the story, but her priorities are not to make headlines but rather to help change the world for the better.
Arnold Vosloo has a small role in the film, but I like him and think he's an underrated actor. People will recognize him from The Mummy films and his guest role on the show 24. The acting in this film is superb, the characters all carry the film and make it something to remember.
The bottom line here is that 'Blood Diamond' is gripping, thrilling and emotional. I shed some tears when I saw 'The Last Samurai' and I indeed shed some tears when I saw 'Blood Diamond.' It's an action film with so much substance, it really pulls you in as an audience member. The few structural problems and the rap song at the end credits are still not enough for me not to highly recommend this film to one and all. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
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