REVIEW: Django Unchained
Tarantino returns to the big screen with this western (or more appropriately Southern) about a freed slave, Django, and a dentist/bounty hunter who attempt to rescue Django’s wife from the nefarious plantation owner Calvin Candie. HAs QT hit the mark, or is it just a bloody mess?
Written and Directed by- Quentin Tarantino
Django- Jamie Foxx
Dr. King Schultz- Christoph Waltz
Calvin Candie- Leonardo DiCaprio
Broomhilda- Kerry Washington
Stephen, the head house slave- Samuel L. Jackson
Billy Crash- Walton Goggins
Right from the very opening seconds you know what to expect from this movie. It opens with a grainy 70’s looking Columbia logo, and is followed with a very 70’s looking opening credits, complete with dated font, several 70’s style crash zooms and the original Django theme from the 1966 Django movie (upon which this is INCREDIBLY loosely based). In case you hadn’t picked up on it, this is a 70’s style western, concerning slavery, set in the south, before the civil war. Then, once the mood and tone are sufficiently set, we are introduced to Dr. King Schultz and we are brought in to the sometimes eloquent, sometimes crass, dialogue of the movie.
Within the first 10 minutes you realise the three main strengths of this movie: Tarantino’s script; Tarantino’s ability to get great performances out of his whole cast; and Tarantino’s use of his camera.
This is a great script. While it does run a little long, there is drama, action, romance and comedy in it, and it never really feels uneven. Some of the dialogue really sparkles, and everybody gets their share. Everyone seems to get at least one scene, or prolonged moment, which enables them to relish in their words, and stretch their acting muscles. This movie is also very funny. There are a number of scenes that had me, literally, breathless with laughter. It could be said that some of the humour is based on the foundation of racism, but I feel it is pointing out just how ludicrous racism is, as opposed to simply exploiting it for cheap laughs.
Foxx as Django is quietly brilliant, the strong silent centre to the movie. He appears to take a back seat to Waltz’s scene stealing turn, but when the last act finally comes around he turns it up and blows you away. Waltz is, simply put, an utter joy to behold, oozing charm and understated menace. I could genuinely watch him for hours. Then there are the bad guys, Leo and Sam L. DiCaprio is clearly loving the opportunity to play a real smarmy bad guy, someone who has little or no value for human life. But it’s Jackson who really delivers. His portrayal of Stephen, the head house slave, is the most unsettling performance in the movie. This is a bad man, who has depths of cruelty that we never really see, but you know they are there. This movie also has a number of fun cameos, as you’d expect, and it’s fun to keep an eye peeled for some of the more hidden ones.
This could also be the best looking of Tarantino’s movies to date. There are shots that are really quite breathtaking, be it the vast landscapes, or the sun shining through the lats of a caravan, there is a lot of beauty to behold in this movie. There are flashbacks that look like 70’s movie stock, saturated and grainy. There are sweeping vistas, and crash zooms. He moves the camera smoothly and confidently, framing great shots, and holding it. He doesn’t feel the need to fast cut or do “shakey cam”, which would be highly inappropriate for the style and pace of this movie. Instead
The music is, as one would expect, quite impressive. It manages to both complement and clash with the movie, with Ennio Morricone penned themes alongside modern rap tunes. But the music never really takes you out of the moment, instead draws you further in, despite how jarring it may initially seem.
Other than the inventive use of dialogue, violence is something that is considered a staple of a Tarantino movie…and Django is no different. This is a violent movie, and the violence is both ridiculously over the top, with Monty Python levels of blood, and quite unnerving, as in the whipping and dog scenes. But the brutal violence and articulate language go hand in hand here. The viewer may await the violence, but the dialogue keeps you invested in the story, and is the reason why you wish to see bloody violence befall these people.
BOTTOM LINE: QUENTIN’S FOLLY
All that said, this is not a perfect movie. The main flaw is that, like so many movies in recent years, it is too darn long. This is a 165 minute movie, and it really does not have to be. While it doesn’t feel hugely long, there are whole sequences that could be done away with without affecting the story. And the ending does suffer slightly from what I call Return-Of-The-King-itis, in so much as it takes entirely too long to end…even after what you assume to be the climactic shoot out. Tarantino’s self indulgence is a problem, and what the movie needs is a ruthless and efficient editor, someone who will do what is best for the movie, and not be swayed by QT’s obvious love for his own script.
So…while it could do with loosing 20 minutes, this is still an incredibly good movie. It looks great. The script is crisp, poignant, and very funny in places. It is violent, but the violence serves the story and the style. The performances are compelling. It is, quite possibly, his best movie since Pulp Fiction.
DID YOU SEE THIS MOVIE? RATE IT!