DVD Review: Blood Diamond

Movie ••• Picture •••• Sound •••• Extras •••½
Although director Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Glory) and screenwriter Charles Leavitt can't quite reconcile their heavy-handed message - diamonds cause African misery - with a desire to entertain in traditional action-adventure style, Blood Diamond rewards those smart enough not to expect too much. Fun can be found in both the remarkably brisk pace and the presence of Leonardo DiCaprio, who has finally evolved into a movie star of old-school quality even as his acting chops have developed far beyond those of most of his contemporaries. But "profound" or even "thought-provoking" aren't on the menu here.

The best bet is to focus on the action and the exotic locations - the gorgeous hills and forests of Sierra Leone - a task made easier by this wonderfully crisp and color-saturated DVD transfer. The audio mix is equally rich and detailed throughout, the surround channels continuously active without drawing attention from the drama onscreen. Use of directional effects is exceptional, especially in battle sequences, and dialogue is clear and intelligible even when the sound field reaches peak density.

The extras - fewer than I'd expect from a two-disc set - include a director's commentary that's strictly by the numbers. There's more meat in the 50-minute documentary which, though surprisingly amateurish in execution, scores big by detailing firsthand the horrors behind the mining and smuggling industries, pulling no punches when it comes to the anguish these activities leave in their wake. You also get a 10-minute featurette on DiCaprio and one on the female journalists who fearlessly cover dangerous, war-torn areas like Sierra Leone. The latter feels a little slight given the weighty topics at hand, but then so does Zwick's movie. [R] English, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (2.35:1) and anamorphic widescreen; dual layer.

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