Jamie Foxx plays a slave who is freed by an Austrian bounty hunter which eventuates in the two rescuing his wife from a despicable plantation owner. Oh and it’s directed by Quentin Tarantino so many many MANY people die in bloody and horrific ways. Did I also forget to mention Leonardo Dicaprio plays a villain, Christoph Waltz gives his best performance yet and Samuel L Jackson is funnier than ever? My review after the jump.
Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave who’s been separated from his wife Bromhilda (Kerry Washington) for more than a year. He is unexpectedly given the chance of rescuing her [and getting his vengeance] hanks to Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who frees Django from slavery in hopes that he can identify some of his formers slavers who have a large bounty on their heads. These same men were responsible for separating Django from his beloved wife.
Django and Schultz almost instantly become a team and bond over bounty hunting. Their greatest mission is not for bounty, but is to rescue Django’s wife. The great obstacle? She is now owned by Mr Calvin Candie, a Mississippi plantation owner who despite his flamboyant mannerisms may be one of the foulest creatures to walk the earth. Candie’s curiosity gets Django and Schultz in the front door, but it’s carnage and ruthlessness that’ll get them out. Candie’s ace in the hole is Stephen (Samuel L Jackson), a master slave whose dedication to Calvin and dislike for Django only increases the tension, and chances of bloodshed. Can they save Bromhilda? Can Calvin Candie be taken down? Will Django finally be reunited with his wife and thus truly find peace in an environment and era that judges him purely based on the colour of his skin?
Why exactly is Quentin Tarantino so renowned? Is it his use of violence to tell a story and invite humour in the mix? His characters? The use of exploitation and references to movies from yesteryear, integrated with a complex story which creates a fun yet monumental film experience? If you said all of the above, then yes, that’s why. He’s observed, deconstructed, reconstructed and almost redefined the usual conventions of cinema, yet he never forgets the importance of entertainment. However, the fact remains that his true downfall is his attempts at some familiar trademarks which include continuous cameos from the man himself. And here lies the problem with Django.
Django Unchained is an almost perfect entertainment picture. Tarantino has finally perfected the balance between grounded and intricate storytelling infused with complexity and trashy exploitation, which embraces excess and audience satisfaction. Inglourious Basterds is in my opinion a masterpiece because it tipped in the favour of complexity. Django comes very close. Even with the balance it reaches, the fact remains that the film’s final half an hour proves to be its clunkiest and diverts away from that grounded storytelling mentioned earlier. There is one scene in particular where Tarantino can’t help but add one of his signature trademarks and it ruins a perfectly good scene which is imperative to the story. It’s the one true flaw of the film and can only be considered embarrassing because of what’s achieved before it. Even with this scene intact, Django Unchained is still a film to behold.
Foxx’s performance is the true definition of stoic, yet glimpses of desperation, fear and compassion really make Django a character with dimensions as opposed to an empty vessel who happens to look cool. Leornardo Dicaprio gives one of his best performance which goes beyond just evidently having fun in a role so different to the ones he usually plays. He’s charming yet sadistic and vile, and from the minute we see him we’re convinced and on guard. Kerry Washington is fantastic, as is Samuel L Jackson, and there’s conviction in both of their performances. Don Johnson in a minor role is also brilliant as a character named Big Daddy (it’s so appropriate, you’ll see) but best of all? Why yes, it is Christoph Waltz, playing a much nicer character than Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds. This man was born to deliver dialogue and helm characters with conflicts greater than the rest. He is charming, menacing and all out perfect, mark my words you will love this man.
Django Unchained is a funny, horrific but ultimately enriching film that portrays slavery as the horrific period in time that it really was (Roots was child’s play compared to this), yet rewards its audience with all the elements that make a great film. Tarantino once again gives us reason to love cinema in the way it entertains yet challenges us more than words could describe.
By Chris Elena
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer(s): Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo Dicaprio, Don Johnson, Kerry
Washington, Samuel L Jackson, James Remar
Runtime: 165 Minutes
Release Date(s): Australia & New Zealand: January 24, 2013; USA: December 25, 2012