Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
Every time a Quentin Tarantino film is released, it feels like Christmas, and Tarantino knows this, having premiered his spaghetti Western, "Django Unchained", in the US on Christmas Day last year. And in spite of the various controversies often associated with his films, Tarantino has once again prevailed.
"Django Unchained" is a bold, bloody and stylistic film set in the antebellum era of the Deep South and Old West, where men of colour were made into slaves. Django (Jamie Foxx) is one such example, but he gets his second chance when he meets the charismatic Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is a German bounty hunter looking for the Speck Brothers, but he does not know them by face, thus he needs Django to help him, on the condition that upon the Speck Brothers' arrest, he will give Django his freedom. However, after their brief stint together, Schultz grows to be fond of Django, and decides to aid him in his quest to free his slave wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from Candyland, owned by the charming but cruel Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Contrary to first impressions, while the 'F-word' and 'N-word' is crassly thrown around in "Django Unchained", the film never feels like a piece aimed to insult, rather, it is a somewhat inspiring tale of one man's quest to free his wife despite the circumstances. Tarantino cleverly parallels his tale with the German folktale of Siegfried, who slays a dragon and walks through hellfire to save his lady love, Brünnhilde/Broomhilda. Its rather overt allusion and surprisingly linear narrative differentiates it from the film that "Inglorious Basterds" was, but it works, mainly because of Tarantino's knack for humour, Robert Richardson's stylish visuals and the star-studded cast.
The superb acting by the cast is one of the reasons why "Django Unchained" is so entertaining. Foxx provides one of his strongest performances here as the fish-out-of-water Django as a man determined to rescue his wife, a role not unlike Uma Thurman's The Bride in "Kill Bill". Tarantino is wont to having his characters play off each other, and watching Foxx and Waltz is an absolute joy. Foxx is fantastic, but the real deal here is Waltz. The latter wowed audiences in 2009′s "Inglorious Basterds", and his work in "Django Unchained" is even better. Like in "Inglorious Basterds", Waltz easily outshines his co-stars as the amicable, smooth-talking yet dangerous Schultz, and we are as taken in as Django by him.
As a villain, Leonardo DiCaprio does not match up to his co-star's SD Colonel Hans Landa from "Inglourious Basterds", but he easily distinguishes himself from the rest of Hollywood's villainous pack as Calvin Candie, whose charming exterior belies the personality of a spoiled brat. The power and passion with which he plays the scene when he finally snaps shows that DiCaprio is unquestionably, made for dramatic turns. DiCaprio is appropriately paired up with Samuel L. Jackson plays Candie's house slave, Stephen. Their relationship is a dark counterpart of Schultz and Django, and even their roles are reversed - Schultz is the educated one whereas between Candie and Stephen, it is obvious that the latter is the only person on the plantation who knows what is going on.
Allusions and layered meanings aside, Tarantino's film is also brash, resulting in a loud and bloody film that will have you in stitches, if you are a fan of Tarantino humour. Tarantino effectively imbues almost every scene in "Django Unchained" with a kind of energy that you can only find in a director who is sure of his footing. What else if not confidence and familiarity that you can use theme tunes from spaghetti Westerns of old such as Sergio Corbucci's 1966 western "Django", 1975's "Mandingo" and 1973's "Charley-One-Eye"? There is also a cameo by the original Django, Franco Nero, who appears in the exchange, "The 'D' is silent," says Foxx, to which Nero replies, "I know." Add these to the impeccable cinematography by Richardson and editing by Fred Raskin, highlighted by the scene where Django asks Schultz if he really is letting him pick out his costume, then cutting to a scene of Django in the outrageous blue valet outfit - it feels almost wrong to laugh this much in a film with such subject matters.
If there is one flaw with "Django Unchained", it is that the film starts to slip by the third act. Tarantino's confidence that helped him in the start has cost him in the end, as the climatic confrontation that Tarantino has been building up to turned out to feel a little too rushed. While audiences are complaining about the film's long running time, I felt that it would have been better if it was slightly longer, because now it feels like we are being shoved into the last train home. It would have done Tarantino good to tone down his exuberance, but this madcap spaghetti Western is exhilarating while it lasted.
Without a doubt, "Django Unchained" will be compared endlessly to Tarantino's predecessor, "Inglourious Basterds". Although it may not match up to the intensity and ingenuity of the latter, Tarantino's three-hour Southern feast of a sensational story, impeccable performances, inspired direction, and beautiful cinematography is still a treat for fans and newcomers alike.Cinema Online, 01 February 2013