Blood Diamond - DVD review

Set amid the carnage of the Sierra Leone civil war of the late-1990s, Blood Diamond tells the story of Solomon Vandy (Hounsou), a Mende fisherman forced into slavery after his village is decimated by rebel guerrillas.

Put to work in the diamond mines, Solomon discovers a very rare pink gem, which he keeps hidden from his captors until a chance intervention by Government forces allows him to escape one day.

He then sets about finding his son, Dia (Kuypers), who has also been kidnapped and is being trained as a child soldier by the rebels. To do this he strikes a bargain with Danny Archer (DiCaprio), an unscrupulous mercenary with illegal connections in the diamond trade: help find Dia and the priceless stone is his.

Ploughing a similar furrow to 2005’s The Constant Gardener, Blood Diamond is an intelligent political thriller tackling Western corporate greed in Africa.

Hounsou - best known as Maximus’ mate in Gladiator – also gives an accomplished performance as the moral foil to Leo’s unprincipled anti-hero. Although the last half hour descends into clichéd Hollywood action formula, and writer Charles Leavitt might have benefited from omitting one of the numerous plotlines from his crowded and occasionally preachy screenplay, Blood Diamond is a 24-carat gem.

While the standard single disc release includes no extras whatsoever, this two-disc “Special Edition” boasts a wide array of informative features with contributions from all of the main players. In his lively audio commentary director Edward Zwick describes the months of preparation he and his cast endured before filming began, and guides us through the nuts and bolts process of putting together the huge “Siege of Freetown” action sequence that kick starts the movie.

DiCaprio talks on location about his approach to the film in the “Becoming Archer” featurette, while Jennifer Connelly pays tribute to the female journalists who risked their lives to report on the Sierra Leone war. Rounding off the package is a moving 50-minute documentary, “Blood on the Stone”, that features interviews with former child soldiers forced to commit atrocious acts of brutality in the diamond mines. Rap fans may also enjoy Nas’ “Shine On ‘Em” music video.

Verdict

DiCaprio (complete with a not-overly-ropey Zimbabwean accent) is thoroughly convincing in an against-type performance that sees him killing, stealing and even getting involved in some Jade Goody-style racism just for good measure.

Focusing on the illegal trafficking of conflict diamonds across the war-torn continent, director Edward “The Last Samurai” Zwick combines stunning sweeping vistas with brutal violence and exhilarating action scenes.

Rating: 15
Staring: Leonard DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Arnold Vosloo, Kagiso Kuypers
Directed by: Edward Zwick
Extras: Audio commentary by director Edward Zwick, Theatrical trailer, Blood On The Stone documentary, Becoming Archer featurette, Journalism On The Front Line featurette, Inside The Siege Of Freetown featurette, Nas music video for 'Shine On 'Em'