The latest from director Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained is an epic western Set in the antebellum era of the Deep South and Old West, which follows slave-turned-bounty hunter Django (Jamie Foxx) who, with the help of his German mentor Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), sets out to rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Nominated for five Academy Awards and winning two at this year’s Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor (Waltz) and Best Screenplay (Tarantino), this is now my second favourite Tarantino film and it certainly bettered my already high expectations.
Firstly, I didn’t expect this to be funny at all, but I surprisingly found myself laughing throughout. Scenes such as an argument over a set of KKK masks are completely out of the blue and not at all expected, but they fit perfectly into the setting that Tarantino has so masterfully created. I’m not usually a fan of westerns but as everybody has already said, Tarantino has definitely made this genre his own. It’s far from anything else anybody has done with the genre, in comedic value, but also because of its serious nature as it looks at the darker side of slavery that is often washed over. Whilst westerns are known for their violence and classic shoot-outs, it’s never been done quite like this before.
Even the scenes of brutal violence, something that is often a strong factor in Tarantino’s work, become comical; it’s unbelievable how much blood comes from one body. In the final scenes, especially, the gore is taken beyond what is necessary, but there is no arguing with how brilliant these scenes are. This is undeniably Tarantino’s bloodiest film yet, although I did still crave for more at times. Just like a large part of Pulp Fiction, many of these scenes stand out as brilliantly directed pieces of cinema, and by the end of the cinematic year, they will undoubtedly remain some of the most memorable. With the best scenes nearly always involving a gun, I think it’s safe to say that Django has topped my list for the best shoot-out of all time, as well.
With yet another excellent script, minute-long conversations are able to keep your full attention throughout. Reminding me a lot of Inglorious Basterds at this point, you can see influences from all of Tarantino’s previous work here, which is the key factor allowing Tarantino to craft this western genre into something of his own. Django captures many of the great techniques that are unique to his brilliant film-making style, and as he pieces the best elements of each, it’s no wonder that this is his best piece of work in years.
Another strong quality of Tarantino’s films is the characters, and subsequently the brilliant actors he reigns in to play them. Here, we see some familiar faces to Tarantino’s films but also some excellent additions. Christoph Waltz is brilliant in the lead role and it is him that I have been rooting for in the Best Supporting Role nominations. Despite his implausible actions, his character is extremely likeable because of the brilliant lines of dialogue that he is given, as he manages to talk himself out of every situation he is faced with. Jamie Foxx, as well, gives another brilliant performance to follow, as we find ourselves commending his character even though he is only out “to shoot white folks for money” (although there is the more meaningful side to the story as his intentions are to save his true love and seek revenge on those who have hurt her). The two make a brilliant double-act and in the end, it is only their relationship that I was concerned with, despite the fact that Kerry Washington gave a strong performance behind all of this.
As for Leonardo DiCaprio, he gives one of his best performances in years. He completely inhabits his character, at one point even carrying on acting after accidentally cutting his hand on a piece of glass. At first, I thought DiCaprio may have looked a little out-of-place in a Tarantino film, but I take that all back. We must also give mention to Samuel L. Jackson at this point, who gives an incredible performance. Despite not having as big of a role as the other three actors, his character is far from what we are used to and for that reason, it is his role that makes the biggest impression.
Sure Django Unchained has its controversial moments, some of which may shock part of the audience,, but why would you expect anything less? The only flaw I found with this film is that it dragged on a bit towards the end, with me thinking it had finished at least three times before it eventually did. Whilst it did begin to ramble on slightly, each of these final scenes were brilliant, and in the end, I was pleased that it did keep going. I can’t wait to watch this again!