I Saw A Film Today… Django Unchained

DJANGO_UNCHAINED_POSTER_ITALIAN_LOCANDINA_by_federico_mancosuQuentin Tarantino is one of the few directors that time and time again makes me say “There is no way that will work!” and then I am proven wrong, time and time again. When Inglourious Bastards came out I questioned it. Was intrigued, but questioned. Little did I know then that today I would consider it a modern masterpiece. Then there came the announcement of Django Unchained. My cynicism once again poked its head up. And once again it shrank back into the darkness, defeated.

Somewhere in a dark and chilly forest in Texas, two slave traders are transporting their recent purchases when they are stopped by a man coming from the shadows. He announces himself as Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and his intent on buying a certain slave with a certain knowledge of outlaws. That slave is Django (Jamie Foxx). After making his purchase, after blowing the head off one trader and leaving the other in the hands of the other slaves, Django and Schultz ride off.

Schultz has a proposal for Django: Help him to find the Brittle brothers (whom Django has former knowledge of) and a bit of bounty hunting and in return Schultz will help Django rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio), the tyrannical owner of Candyland, a cotton plantation. But this is a Tarantino film, and things are never that simple. Will the trio leave Candyland alive?

What Tarantino has done with Django is taken the template from Inglourious Basterds and replicated it in the pre-Civil War south. Usually this sort of thing doesn’t work but for the most part here it does. It an original and fun film that pays homage to the spaghetti westerns of old like They call me Trinity and Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy and has touches from grindhouse films that Tarantino is so fond of.

It’s a deliciously violent film as well. When Tarantino wants to blow a hole in a guys head, he doesn’t use sissy CGI. No, gallons of crayon red corn syrup erupts from the canyon that was previously a slave traders cranium. This is just a testament to the love QT puts into his films. Would it be cheaper to just CGI in the gore in post production instead of using squibs? Probably. Would it look just as good? Certainly not.

But Django does have it faults. Since Tarantino decided to base this project on the architect of his previous project, you expect it to be, for lack of a better word, better. But Django is more or less the same. One of the major strengths of Inglourious Basterds is the tensity of scenes between two foes, where success or failure hinges on the strength of frayed twine. Django has that tensity to an extent but seems to wrap up more neatly and written. Or maybe I’m being to harsh. I generally dislike comparing films with others but in this case it seems unavoidable.

The performances are the real bread and butter of this film. Jamie Foxx is a perfectly hostile Django. He carries a chip on both shoulders, as he should, and the full extent of his skill is shown in moments when he must choose to be the opposite of who he truly is. Kerry Washington is great also and a little underrated if anything. She was cast as the object of desire and prize, a mandatory of a spaghetti western, and she plays in beautifully. And on the other end of the spectrum is Sam Jackson, the cranky old head worker of Candyland. A very hard yet comical performance. And i thought the cameo appearances were one of the treasures of this film, like Zoe Bell, Robert Carradine, Tom Savini, Jonah Hill, and the director himself.

Poor Leonardo DiCaprio. The very talented actor just does not ever seem to get the respect he deserves. This is one of his finest performances and he receives no love from the academy for it. His violently bi-polar performance of Calvin Candy is near-masterful and like many others this year, he was snubbed. But Christoph Waltz wasn’t, and for good reason: He’s brilliant. The way he delivers lines, the way he reacts, his body language… all perfection. He steals every scene he appears in.

Django Unchained is not a perfect film, but it is something of a throwback. A throwback to a time when perfection wasn’t the aim, just to produce a film with a great story and have a fun time as well. Then again, in a way, that is perfection.

Verdict: See it!

*Rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight (figured this would fall under “graphic violence throughout”, but who am I too question the MPAA…), language, and some nudity. 165 minutes.

**Poster by Federico Mancosu.

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