Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
Django Unchained is another masterpiece from Quentin Tarantino, the film has not left my head since watching it and I cannot wait to re-experience it. The more I think of Django Unchained, the more I think that it ranks among the very best of Tarantino’s work. This may be his bloodiest, bravest film yet and it is ridiculous that he was denied a Best Director nomination at this year’s Oscars. Tarantino tackles a touchy topic and does so in a fearless and ferocious manner. Django is a daring film and one that will disgust and disturb but ultimately delight.
Visually, the nature of this film lends it an element of beauty that simply could not be found in previous efforts, we’re worlds away from the claustrophobia of that warehouse in Reservoir Dogs. The cinematography from Robert Richardson is exquisite and as with every Tarantino film, this deserves to be seen the best way a film can, in the cinema. There are singular images from this film that will never leave my mind and rank among the finest frames not just in Tarantino’s filmography but also in recent cinema. As is also expected in a Tarantino film the music is superb and this may be my favourite Tarantino soundtrack. Whilst there is nothing as instantly iconic or memorable as his use of Stuck in the Middle With You in Reservoir Dogs (Will he, or anyone else for that matter, eclipse it?) he still continues to weirdly and wonderfully marry his images to music. Whether it’s tupac rap accompanying a bloody shoot-out or haunting operatic and classical music accompanying the ride of a pre-KKK group, each music choice assists and augments the experience. This is a soundtrack I will be listening to for a long time.
Another thing that you can expect in a Tarantino tale is a lot of violence. This film has a scene of violence so brutal that it actually made me look away from the screen. I consume a lot of entertainment with bloody and disturbing violence, I’ve seen almost all of Tarantino’s previous films and yet, this film still managed to shock me in such a way. Despite everything he has done in the past and despite the comedic and knowingly over the top nature of some of the other violence in this film, Tarantino is still able to sicken you and portray violence in arguably the only way it should be portrayed, better than anybody else. I may have never felt such a wide range of emotions in any Tarantino film or any film for that matter than in Django Unchained. In one scene Tarantino had me terrified one minute and laughing out loud the next, he made me jump, he sent chills down my spine and ultimately come the film’s conclusion I walked out of the cinema more excited than I have been walking out of a film in a while. The fact that not only are these emotions instigated, but in some occasions so close to another is what is so stunning about his work in this film. The line between horror and humour has never been drawn closer in a Tarantino film, or any film for that matter, than in Django Unchained.
In regards to the performances let us start with lead, Jamie Foxx. In Django, Foxx has what is arguably Tarantino’s best character in the sense that we see a clear development and transformation over the course of the film. This movie is in one way, a superhero origin story and seeing Foxx go from the silent slave to the accomplished avenger is one of the more satisfying character arcs in recent cinema history. He anchors this film and while the supporting players are rightfully getting much praise, Foxx’s performance is one that should not be forgotten as he constantly keeps you invested and believing in his character and the story. Christoph Waltz is also superb in this film and it is nice to see him back in Tarantino’s hands after a series of Hollywood efforts that failed to build upon the promise of his Oscar winning turn in Inglourious Basterds. Following the character he had and performance he gave in Inglorious Basterds is tough, however Waltz remains as charismatic and charming as ever.
My two favourite performances however, not just in this film but also of their respective careers, belong to Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson. In Django, DiCaprio is doing something he has never done before and it is shocking that he was not recognized with an Oscar nomination for doing so. DiCaprio plays a character that is absolutely despicable, yet also hilarious in that heightened Tarantino manner. From his pretentious demand to be called Monsieur Calvin Candie through to his plantation, Candieland, this is one of the best characters Tarantino has ever created and a fine villain. A monologue delivered by DiCaprio regarding a skull is as electric, engaging and memorable as any scene of action or adventure you will ever see. As with every Tarantino film, the dialogue is just as dangerous, important and unpredictable as his scenes of violence. Whether the blows in this film come psychically or psychologically, all of them land a significant impact.
Samuel L. Jackson also plays against type, having what is arguably the most humorous character in the film. Seeing him as the senile, foul-mouthed and sycophant number two to DiCaprio’s character is a joy to watch. Shots and scenes that compose of nothing more than those two actors talking together are amongst my favourites in the film. I can only imagine the fun that those two and Tarantino must have had on set, bringing those awful characters to cinematic life.
However Django Unchained is not flawless. Kerry Washington who plays Django’s wife Broomhilda could have been given more to do and the argument that she is an outlier in Tarantino’s history of female characters is a valid one. Considering how dominant in shaping their fates previous female characters have been in Tarantino films, seeing her be nothing more than a victim who needs to be rescued was not problematic so much as unexpected. At two hours and forty-five minutes this is also a very long film, however I personally was not bored for a second and was engaged throughout, I can understand however if others felt differently. There are many scenes in this film that when you really break them down, are superfluous to the plot at hand, however those scenes are also amongst the best and most memorable in the film. If I were to be in charge of editing this film, at most ten to twenty minutes would have gone (Most likely from the first act). The film’s length is perhaps most felt in its final fifteen minutes when you think the film has reached its climax, only to discover that the final set piece is yet to come. The fact that Tarantino makes his cameo in this movement only adds fuel to the criticisms of self-indulgence.
Overall, Django Unchained is a superb film and despite all of Tarantino’s influences and well-established trademarks, is original and unique to its very core. Some may find it boring, others offensive, however if you are a fan of films and cinema, there will be something in Django Unchained for you to love and appreciate. A brilliant piece of filmmaking, that is wittily and intelligently written, beautifully and inventively shot and brilliantly performed. If up until now Tarantino only had your curiosity, with this film he may have got your attention.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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