Although Blood Diamond and its 2.35:1 widescreen transfer on this HD DVD are both pretty decent and the sound rather excellent, it's the groundbreaking extras that are the stars of this disc, so that's what I'll focus on. But first ...
While the 1080p VC-1-encoded picture is generally filled with lots of detail and rich colors, during nighttime sequences there's not much depth to objects, actors, or compositions, and shots sometimes get muddy. The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is better - very surrounding during the action sequences, with convincing effects. Meanwhile, James Newton Howard's drum-filled, extremely bassy score comes at you from all directions, but it doesn't drown out or blur the quieter elements. Dialogue is likewise very crisp and clear thoughout.
Now, on to those extras. Everything that was on the two-disc standard-def DVD is here. There are four making-of featurettes (totaling 76 minutes) and a Nas music video, all of which are rather run-of-the-mill. More impressive and unusual is a 50-minute documentary on the misery that stems from the mining of diamonds in conflict states - and their use to finance civil wars. The doc was made by journalist Sorious Samura, who, after his brother was killed in such a situation, decided to test the system, hoping to guarantee that only legitimate non-conflict diamonds are sold in the West. (Two-thirds of all diamonds are bought in America.) The result is more fascinating than the feature film itself. Another above-average extra is the commentary by director Edward Zwick, who is interesting, insightful, and both compassionate and passionate.
And then there are the features exclusive to the HD DVD. The Blu-ray Disc released in June carried 47 minutes of 1-to-3-minute making-of featurettes, which can be viewed individually or in a play-all series. Either way, they feel very fragmented. On the HD DVD, these vignettes have been incorporated cleverly into a feature-length In-Movie Experience (IME). This consists of a picture-in-picture (PIP) track of cast-and-crew talking-head interviews and behind-the-camera shots of the same scene that's playing on the rest of the screen. Whenever a yellow icon appears, if you hit the Enter button, the movie and the PIP fade out and one of the 20-odd scene-specific vignettes replaces them. When it's finished playing, the screen returns to the film and PIP. These mini-featurettes work much better here and, in combining with the other material, give a lot of variety to the presentation of information.
The HD DVD also features the format's first Web-enabled content. There are two multiple-choice polls, one letting you choose how you were affected by the film and whether it changed your mind about diamonds, the second amounting to a market survey of which titles you'd like to see on HD DVD. A better use of this interactivity is in the presentation of a map of Africa that shows where the many conflicts are occurring. When you click on one of the hot spots, text-based information about the area and the fighting appears. Neither use of Web-based features is that thrilling or impressive, but it's still the early days for high-def disc interactivity.
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