Django Unchained

Django

2012

Directed by Quentin Tarantino – Written by Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson

When I was offered the chance to review Django Unchained I knew I was the right man for the job. Like the movies main protagonist, I understand the confines of slavery; my editor Mr Stanworth beating and branding me until I up my productivity (call 999). Additionally, we both have silent consonants in our name. Like brothers from ethnically different flavoured mothers.

Moving on…

The D may be silent but the ‘Holy Fuck’ that came out of my mouth at a packed screening wasn’t. Tarantino’s new film is great fun, brilliantly violent, hugely entertaining and a return to top form for one of the most hugely popular and controversial directors in Hollywood. Set in 1858, two years prior to the American Civil War of Independence and at the height of slavery in the South, we find Django, Jamie Foxx, a black slave whose freedom is bought by bounty hunter Dr King Schultz, Christoph Waltz, in exchange for tracking down and helping kill his latest bounty. After training Django as his bounty partner, Schultz promises to accompany him to ‘Candieland’ a plantation owned by the ruthless Calvin Candie, Leonardo DiCaprio, in order to save his wife. However, rescuing her will be far from easy.

What is prevalent from the offset is Tarantino’s love of Spaghetti Westerns. From the pre 1976 Columbia logo with distorted colours, to the opening montage paying homage to the Westerns of old we know this is a director with a genuine affinity for this genre. The movie is deliberately shot on 35mm film, causing it to look intentionally gritty and grainy. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood would be proud.  The film is significantly more brutal than any of his previous works, with Tarantino reveling in stylistically upping the ante and challenging himself into splattering blood and gore over the screen in a seemingly limitless amount of ways. It would be fair to argue that this is Tarantino’s retaliation to the criticism from the press regarding his love of violence and his apparent lack of responsibility as a filmmaker in handling it. Either way, its highly enjoyable, although those of a non-violent nature from the Gandhi club would be more accustomed to listening to a Whale sounds CD in a darkened room with aromatherapy candles burning their scent into their nostrils. It’s you people that make me want to go on a mad killing spree and, as a result, are responsible for making me up therapy sessions to three times a week.

Cunts.

The violence never feels gratuitous and feels distinctly Tarantino, like a Rembrandt painting the screen in wave after wave of perfectly executed claret. It is this trademark violence; the inclusion of rap playing during the final shootout and the unerring morbid humour that ensures Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western is cooked al dente as opposed to the classics of old. This brings me to my next point, the humour. The film is terrifically funny, laugh out loud so at times. The scene surrounding the KKK and the visibility problems they have with their white hoods was a particular standout and added a sense of realism to the films narrative.  However, no matter how fun the film is you never doubt how serious it takes racism, which is an unflinching and true portrayal of one of the darkest chapters in America’s history. The films screenplay is a thing of unrivalled beauty. You find yourself rhythmically following in sync to the films perfectly flowing dialogue. It is funny, cutting, serious and never forced.

However, for all its pros the film does have its cons. Certain sections of the film feel underdeveloped or indeed not needed. The search for the Brittle Brothers is a prime example, introduced relatively early on yet never developed throughout the films narrative. Others have complained that this has caused the film to be sloppy, feeling like it has been mashed together. Is it that the loss of editor Sally Menke has resulted in Tarantino’s finished product being less polished than his previous works? Food for thought definitely…

Despite this, the film never drags and its 165-minute run time flies by surprisingly quickly.

Performances from the cast on the whole are top drawer (excuse the pun). Jamie Foxx plays Django well after a slow start, causing us to empathize with him all the way to his sadistic culmination. It is not an easy role to play, so credit where credits due. Waltz is nothing short of fantastic as Dr King Schultz, building on his Oscar win for Inglourious Basterds (2009) with a funny and eccentric performance. DiCaprio steals the show however, as the ruthless and pampered plantation owner whilst Samuel L Jackson is incredibly funny as his house servant Stephen (even if he seems to be parodying himself to every stereotype).

In conclusion, go and see this movie. It’s like playing out your most violent fantasies whilst accompanied by a standout comedian, except you won’t get the heavy prison sentence and the sore ass in prison. I’ll leave you with that image.

Till next time…

7/10

– Louis Young

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