Monday, 28 January 2013

Slaves, Death, And Other Happy Topics

Westerns. The word that makes most people think of grainy movies made in the sixties and seventies somewhere in Europe and dubbed in American; probably starring John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, or Henry Fonda. We think ponchos, ten gallon hats, Native Americans, saloons, bank robberies, Mexican stand offs, the quick draw. We rarely think Germans and shiny blue suits. Well today’s film might change that. This is Django Unchained.

German bounty hunter, Dr Schultz (Christolph Waltz), frees young slave Django (Jamie Foxx) to help him be his temporary partner in order to track down the Brittle brothers, three men who had previously been in charge if Django and his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). The two bounty hunters form a bond as Schultz teaches Django how to present himself in public and be a master with a gun. Django, with only natural talent for the job to offer in return, becomes Schultz full time partner over winter, and they plan how to free Broomhilda from plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Candie is famous for breeding 'Mandingos', slaves who fight one another to the death with just their hands for the owner's amusement and betting purposes. Schultz and Django pose as traders of Mandingos looking for a slave to take back and fight in Europe. Their plan is to purchase one of Candie's best Mandingos and also Broomhilda, seeing as she is just a meaningless slave, so that she may be reunited with Django again. But Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candie's loyal house slave and foreman trustee, does not trust Django for one second; something about a black man on a horse tickles him the wrong way and he is determined to find the bounty hunters' plot.

Candie was such a successful plantation owner
because he was always ahead of the competition.
There is a possibility that Tarantino has a supernatural gift in terms of his ability to perfectly cast a film, except  one character - but we will come to that. Despite Django being specifically written for Will Smith, Jamie Foxx adapts to the role without even a shadow of a doubt. He is effortlessly cool and he portrays Django's range of emotions, sometimes without saying a word. In his eyes you see the pain, the sadness, occasionally the happiness that Django would feel. DiCaprio's first outing as the antagonist is one of his most succesful to date. How he did not get nominated for an Oscar is beyond me. Acting so well to the extent that when he actually cuts his hand in a scene, he carries on to the horror of his cast mates. Incredible. Tarantino describes it as 'mesmerizing.' Christoph Waltz, needless to say, is outstanding. Nominated, rightly, for an Oscar, his second one under the direction of Tarantino. This is a team that works together. The comic relief of the film, but also the plot driving centre, along with Django. His character is complex but Waltz makes it seem effortless. Another brilliant performance. But the real stand out is Samuel L. Jackson. Not an Oscar performance, but the character that induced the most reaction from the audience. The reaction of hatred. Stephen is such a slimy character with a superiority complex that just makes him detestable. Superbly portrayed by Jackson. Horridly enjoyable.

The newest Django meets the oldest Django in a quick cameo.
On to the man behind the camera. Quentin Tarantino. This is a man who turns out hit after hit and Django is no different. Incredible shot, as all westerns are, with a soundtrack to die for. Funny and heartbreaking. Fitting action that suits all adrenalin needs. It is clever, it is strong, it is slightly controversial. It is simply all encompassing. That being said, the film is not flawless. It is just a tiny bit too long. Only minor cuts need to be made, just to take out the smallest sensation of, 'we have aaagggeesss left,' or, 'this film is soooo long.' It's only a slight feeling of 'too long' but it's there all the same. Not a huge issue, but an issue nonetheless. Secondly, and more irritatingly, is Tarantino's own appearance in the film. Normally a welcome addition to his films, but here, in his peculiar attempt at an Australian accent, something just is not right. He is next to impossible to understand and it completely jars with the rest of the film entirely, considering the rest is so well acted. Again, a small mistake that just takes something away from the film. But apart from these two small, irritating issues, Tarantino is in full stride.

A great film. Pretty much exactly what you would expect from Tarantino, Django Unchained is hilarious, action packed, touching, and down right cool. Some fantastic performances and a killer soundtrack, combined with some amazing cinematography pushes Django above the competition. Not Tarantino's best, but it is up there.

Best Bit? The scene with the early KKK complaining about their bag-masks will keep you laughing for ages after the film has finished. Plus, a great little cameo from Jonah Hill.

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