Tarantino’s latest overstays its welcome, but his astonishing marriage of dialogue and action continues to wow.
Dir. Quentin Tarantino
2012 | USA | Drama/Western| 165 mins | 2.39:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
Plot: With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Awards: Won 2 Oscars – Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay. Nom. for 3 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing.
Distributor: Sony Pictures (Park Circus)
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
(Reviewed in theaters – first published 18 Mar 2013)
Mr Tarantino has done it again. His latest picture, Django Unchained, is one of the most entertaining works in his filmography. Well, it is not quite the complete experience like his masterpieces Pulp Fiction (1994) and Inglourious Basterds (2009), but it is a wild ride and a bloody good time spent in the theater. Tarantino calls his action-Western a ‘Southern’, a period piece set during the tumultuous era of slavery, where in this case the hero is not a jaded White cowboy, but an African-American with a vengeance. Django is his name, played by an inspired Jamie Foxx who turns from a slave in captivity to a reliable sharpshooting partner to German bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz).
Both are off to find Django’s wife (Kerry Washington), who is a slave working in a plantation owned by a ruthless Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Along their journey, expect loads of violence and gore, and some kickass dialogue exchanges. Remaining consistent as ever, Tarantino’s trademark marriage of stylish action and sharp dialogue is unparalleled. There is so much homage to the genre, yet at the same time it circumvents its conventions. In one sequence, Tarantino pops in a rap song by Rick Ross. In another, he pops in a remix version of Ennio Morricone’s theme for Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970). The resulting fusion of song and soundtrack is indescribable – distinctively Tarantino-ish yet it is something new to behold.
“Django. The D is silent.”
Tarantino is a master of creating characters that stand the test of time. In Django, he gives us another set of unforgettable characters, in particular Schultz and Candie. There is also a delicious supporting role by Samuel L. Jackson who is positively annoying and promises a load of laughs. Django is possibly the most hilarious Tarantino picture to date. It is also, for better or worse, his longest film to date. With a running time of 165 minutes, the film is bloated, though packed with rich material. However, the last twenty minutes appear to be too indulgent on Tarantino’s part – it would have worked better as part of an extended cut in a home video release than a theatrical cut. This is the main reason Django is less complete an experience when compared to some of Tarantino’s best works, and why I gave only four stars.
Slavery seems to be the hot topic in recent months. Together with the more serious and stately Lincoln (2012), Django Unchained has stirred talk over America’s despicable past. While Spielberg’s film is much more historically accurate, Tarantino’s film is more fun. It is also more controversial with its rampant use of the ‘N’ word, graphic depiction of violence, and the occasionally unnecessary killing of a White person. But it did get Tarantino his well-deserved second Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.