Thursday, December 27, 2012

Django Unchained (2012) Review

Django Unchained poster
Part of Merry Christmas and Happy Tarantino Month!

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio
Genre: Revisionist Western

Tarantino's latest film, Django Unchained, is quite the violence-packed roller-coaster and is one of the most enjoyable pictures of the year. Tarantino has done a heist epic, a crime epic, a martial arts revenge epic, a WWII epic, and now he has done his western epic.

The story follows Django (Foxx), a slave that is promised his freedom if he helps a bounty hunter (Waltz) to find three brothers whom only he can recognize. However, Django also has plans to rescue his also slaved wife from Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), a rich slaver and slave fighter.

Inspired by the likes of Corbucci's Django (1966) (there's a very nice Franco Nero cameo in here) and its many sequels, Mandingo (1975), Charley One-Eye (1973), The Wild Bunch (1969), hell, there's even traces of Bonanza in here.

The violence is incredibly over-the-top and exaggerated...and, quite frankly, awesome. There's plenty of blood and even some gore and it all looks great and is presented in a very stylish manner. The film makes blood look beautiful. 

It's not a film that takes itself seriously or wants to be taken seriously. It's over-the-top in every sense of the word. It's spaghetti western in its purest form. The film has dynamite in it despite the film being set 9 years before dynamite was invented. Calvin Candie has a Nefertiti Bust in his home even though it wasn't discovered until 1912. Django wears sunglasses even though glasses in the 19th century were strictly for the visual impaired. People, dear people, do not take this movie too seriously. Perhaps the only thing serious (and I hesitate even now) is the brutal and horrifying portrayal of slavery that the film presents with no holds barred.

Jamie Foxx Django Unchained

The action scenes are intense, from the opening scene to the final shootout there's some nice gun-play in here. I would've liked to have seen the ole' six-shooter get a bit more action in here, being that it's a spaghetti western and runs for nearly two and a half hours I expected to see a little more gun-slinging action. But what is present is great. And I suppose the ridiculous inaccuracy of the enemies was intentional, but, for me, it kind of ruined some of the magic and awe.

Django Unchained blood

But, as with most Tarantino films, for every second of violence there is an equal amount of slow-paced, talky scenes. There are some really great scenes in here aside from the violent action ones. The dialogue and long-takes at Calvin Candie's dinner table is suspenseful and intense and ultimately very powerful. The saloon scene is funny. The opening scene is epic. The pre-Civil War, and indeed pre-KKK, lynch mob scene was, though a little out of place, very funny.

Leonardo DiCaprio Django Unchained

The dialogue, though I'd hardly call it Tarantino's best work, though it's certainly up there, is pretty darn good. I also very much adored the costume design; all the attire was remarkably awesome looking and visually pleasant.

Has a Tarantino film ever had anything short of amazing acting? I'd say no, and Django Unchained is no exception. Both cast and acting is superb. Jamie Foxx does a great job as Django, probably his career defining performance. I'm sure his performance impressed many who failed to ever see him as a serious actor (but all the years of my childhood I spent watching The Jamie Foxx Show taught me that he is a capable performer). Leonardo DiCaprio does an amazing job in his first Tarantino feature (also the first time in 16 years that he didn't get top-billing on a film), but it's hardly unexpected given DiCaprio's always great performances. I'd say though that Christoph Waltz, returning from Inglorious Basterds, stole the show. Simply fabulous job by Waltz. Samuel L Jackson had a role in here as a much older character than he usually plays, and he did a solid job but it definitely wasn't Jackson at his best in my opinion. I'd even go so far as to say that his performance in here has been a bit overrated by most critics.

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained

Any film buffs will recognize the many nods to other films (along with other pop culture references) and the many cameos, cameos which include Tom Savini, Zoe Bell, Franco Nero, Michael Parks, James Russo, and of course even the director himself.

The soundtrack...ah, the soundtrack. It's a solid soundtrack, good even, but, compared to Tarantino's other films, a bit of a let down. Not so much that any of it is bad, a lot of it just felt misplaced to me. The Rick Ross song wasn't as awful (in terms of suiting the film) as I was afraid it may have been. Obviously the Django theme (taken from the 1966 Django) is perfect for the film. The many reused Ennio Morricone compositions were great. I don't know, just as a whole the soundtrack and score didn't leave me terribly impressed and some points felt a bit off to me. It's not bad though.

Jamie Foxx and Franco Nero (cameo) in Django Unchained

Django Unchained is a great film and it's incredibly enjoyable (I've seen it four times in theaters so far). It's far from Tarantino's best--Inglorious Basterds is far better in my opinion, though it's a great improvement over Death Proof--and it's definitely not his most intelligent film (it's pretty mindless) but it is a worthy one nonetheless. Very much worth the price of admission.

4/5 stars

Purchase Django Unchained on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Soundtrack
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