Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, but they come at a cost that this 2006 release shows to be more than just the accompanying price tag at Tiffany’s. “Blood Diamond” takes us into the dangerous mix of political strife and diamond mining/smuggling that engulfed Sierra Leone, circa 1999 for this flick.
The ruthless RUF (rebel group Revolutionary United Front) is either gunning down or amputating the locals, and sparing just enough others for recruitment into their militia or slavery in their diamond mines. Without venturing too much into the movie’s details since we’re focusing on the HD DVD treatment of the release, the story revolves around a fisherman (Djimon Hounsou as Solomon Vandy), a diamond smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer) and a journalist (Jennifer Connelly as Maddy Bowen).
From the opening scenes, this often heart-pounding film is served well by the HD DVD format. The RUF’s brutality is at enters Vandy’s village also enters our living room in a scene filled with screams, gunfire and other commotion well captured in the Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD surround soundtracks.
The constant terror and violence within Sierra Leone in this era is depicted several more times during the movie and the realism is fully captured by the audio. The rear speakers aren’t always in play, but scenes involving helicopters and bazooka firings factor in the mix. The surround audio for the music, which frequently combines ambient rhythmic African drumbeats with RUF-blasting rap songs heightens the movie’s tension.
Visually, the stunning African vistas do not disappoint. Filmed mostly in Mozambique and South Africa, the lush green landscape on the HD DVD release is wonderful to gaze at. The stark and detailed contrast between the landscape’s beauty (green in the money sense too?) and the helpless villagers who provide a much sought-after world commodity further hammers home the movie’s themes.
Meanwhile, on the closer shots used by director Edward Zwick, facial features become greatly enhanced—especially every wrinkle of anguish and sweat bead on Hounsou; the incredible eyes of Connelly, green to match her relative naivete; and the scruffiness of diamond trade-worn DiCaprio.
As far as extras go, “Blood Diamond” takes advantage of HD DVD’s web connectivity with updated maps that let and info that allows viewers, whose interest in Africa and conflict diamonds is now piqued after watching the movie, gain further education on the topic. There’s also an interactive online poll. An in-movie experience lets you pull up commentary from director Zwick on his challenges in making such an emotionally charged film. Other features include profiles of DiCaprio’s and Connelly’s transitions into their roles, plus a look at the path that diamonds take from being plucked out of the ground to making their way to store displays.
Overall, the movie is superbly acted and told, and worth a viewing in the first place. If you’ve already seen it on DVD or in the theater, the HD DVD release gives good reason to watch “Blood Diamond” again.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.