Saturday, January 12, 2013

Django Unchained ★★★★½


Australia: 24th January 2013; USA 25th December UK 18th January 2013
Other Countries: Release Dates 

 Quentin Tarantino is a director who does not come lightly to any project.  He has a history of unabashedly focusing his pin-point wit and dark, bloody humor on a subject to the point where you are reeling, albeit enjoyably.   In his last outing, eight times Academy Award®-nominated INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, he cast his view upon World War II and the bloody inhumanity required to survive.  Might I mention, you will find in any Tarantino film review the word ‘bloody’ figuring often.
Now he’s turned to the era of slavery in the US Southern states during the 1800s.  But Tarantino being Tarantino, has decided to approach this historic time of moral complexity by setting the story as a Spaghetti Western. He says, “I’ve always wanted to do a Western.  I like all kinds of Westerns, but since Spaghetti Westerns have always been my favorite, I thought that the day I do one, it would be in that Sergio Corbucci universe.” 
And whilst DJANGO UNCHAINED has all the hallmarks of Tarantino, it  feels refreshingly new.  “Quentin’s intense study of the genre led to the inspired idea of mashing up the slave narrative with the Spaghetti Western which creates a movie we have never seen before,” adds Producer Reginald Hudlin.
The name “Django” is familiar to fans of Spaghetti Westerns: Franco Nero (who makes a cameo appearance in this) first portrayed the character in 1966 in DJANGO.  Indeed, the original DJANGO was so popular that other films borrowed the name as a marketing tool.  The more imaginative titles include DJANGO, KILL; DJANGO THE AVENGER; VIVA! DJANGO, and BALLAD OF DJANGO. 
In the opening scene of DJANGO UNCHAINED we meet Django (Jamie Foxx) marching in a chain-gang of slaves on their way to new owners.  Along comes the very cool and unflappable German-born Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz) requesting to purchase Django who has worked previously for the Brittle Brothers.  All does not go well (imagine a lot of blood) for the chain-gang leaders when they decline his offer and we realize the very well-mannered Schultz is a proficient killer.
Schultz, as it turns out, is a bounty hunter who reiterates often that the criminals he tracks are worth money ‘Dead or Alive’; and in each case, dead seems better.  He enlists Django to help him track the Brittle Brothers and they team up as an unlikely pair of bounty hunters.  The startled looks of townsfolk, as Django rides in on a horse with Schultz, signals the taboo of a white and black man working together.  It’s the deep prejudices of the time that make for some of the funniest lines in the film.  There is a Ku Klux Klan scene that is as good as they come. 
Django reveals that he and his beloved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) were separated years ago due to the slave trade.  As a friendship blossoms between Schultz and Django during their bounty hunting the two track her whereabouts to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of “Candyland,” an infamous plantation.  It’s a wild ride along the way and one that leaves a trail of Tarantino inspired bloody corpses riddled with bullet holes.
One of the key strengths of the film is the portrayals by the leads.  Jamie Foxx’s Django evolution from anxious, submissive slave to an arrogant, confident Mandingo trainer is convincing.  Nominated for a Golden Globe for the role, Leonardo DiCaprio took on his first truly villainous character in playing Calvin Candie.  Originally Tarantino was thinking of an older actor for the part but after DiCaprio read the script and they talked Tarantino reworked the story to create a Caligula type ''boy Emperor' character that suited the actor.  And Christopher Schwarz’s juxtapositional role as the kind-hearted mentor to Django whilst calmly executing his bounty prey for money is a pure joy.
This is a 165 minute blood fest. Tarantino even manages to throw himself in a scene (with an interesting Australian accent) for a just-for-fun appearance. And that is the thing with him; he has fun in his own unashamedly bloody way and has been doing so since his 1992 RESERVOIR DOGS. If you are Tarantino fan then you will happily follow him wherever he travels. You know the territory.  If you are not, maybe take a peek anyway.  This may be the one that changes your mind. And did I mention there is a lot of blood?
Official Movie Website
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  1. I loved this review almost as much as I loved the film. No offense, but Django Unchained was cinematic genius.

    I am most definitely a Quentin Tarantino fan. He has had a bit of an influence on my writing style--my vision.

  2. Thank you Kiki for your fabulous words and for following my blog now. Lovely comments like yours make it all worthwhile. Money would be good too but I will take the compliments for now. LOL. I'm off to see Django again.