Blood Diamond (Warner)
Features: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, and Jennifer Connelly
Previously released June 5th, 2007 on Blu-ray, Warner’s Blood Diamond was also released July 3 on HD DVD. This is movie that the De Beers company loves to hate, Blood Diamond actually received less mainstream press than I thought it would upon its premier last year. I figure most of the outrage against “blood” or conflict diamonds has already been generated from years of media reports covering the West African conflicts and South African profiteering that occurred during the 1990’s and eventually ended up in a process for ferreting out illegal diamonds mined out of war zones in order to illegally finance insurgent forces and their respective warlords. This process, called the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (with “Scheme” sounding kinda sketchy, don’tcha think?) is supposed to create transparencies in the diamond trade and make those declaring their effusive love each other feel good about putting a high-grade, 4-C rock on the ol’ ring-finger. And that, with the development of character archetypes we care about, is basically the plot for this earnest film that offers plenty of bloody action for the gung-ho and grim reminders for the socially conscious. The acting earned plenty of awards nominations, but some might find the characters to be rather two-dimensional as they race to find a rare pink diamond and discover the true meaning of Christmas (I’m kidding about that last part).
Both the Blu-ray Disc and the HD DVD release offer the same tech specs including widescreen 2.35 ratio image (1080p) with a video quality that focuses on the 4-Cs of hi-def: clarity, crispness, compression and color levels. There is some noticeable graininess at times on both discs, but overall the image looks good especially in every gorgeously shot outdoor sequence. The audio on the HD DVD differs from the Blu-ray release in giving us a DD True HD 5.1 mix that comes very close to the dynamic range of the PCM offered by the Blu-ray release. The audio acquits itself during the vicious battle sequences where automatic gunfire seems to come from everywhere in the room during the violent chaos, yet the dialog and score play off each other so that words are distinct and understandable. The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 offerings in English, Spanish and French (like the subtitles) also sound fine for the hi-def theater system. The release offers an audio commentary by Director Edward Zwick along with a slew of production features and video diaries called “Focus Points” that include:
• Blood on the Stone: Follow a Diamond’s Path from the Ground to the Stone
• Becoming Archer: Profiling Leonardo DiCaprio
• Journalism on the Front Line: Jennifer Connelly on Women Journalists at War
• Inside the Siege of Freetown: Edward Zwick on One of the Movie’s Pivotal Sequences
• Nas “Shine on ‘Em” Music Video
• Theatrical Trailer
The major difference in hi-def releases comes from the HD DVD version which includes even more features such as the In-Movie Experience (IME) which is a picture-in-picture feature that allows a power-user to have an ongoing pop-up video commentary during the film and offers additional behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. It’s a cool little use of the HD DVD platform and not nearly as annoying as you’d think. Warner Home Video also included a few web-based features that utilize that broadband connection thingy on the back of HD DVD players… y’know that Ethernet port that seemed like a sneakers on a fish. Now it does something. WHV gives it the ability to allow the viewer to voice their opinions on aspects of the film (kind of like a never-ending screening of the film, I guess), vote on future WHV releases, as well as enjoy an additional interactive feature (ability to access maps of Africa showing areas of conflict diamond activity are a nice touch). WHV did not release these features on Blu-ray, so consider that when purchasing for your hi-def system. Note to HD DVD users: you may need a firmware upgrade for your HD DVD player to handle the broadband content, see manual or go to the website for that make/model to check for recent upgrades or possible firmware downloads.
See also the Blu-ray Disc review of Blood Diamond