I tried to avoid any reviews for this one to go into it with no expectations and an open mind. I’m also not the biggest Tarantino fan and cannot really understand the hype around his persona. I guess he’s just a little too extroverted for my taste. When it comes to his movie work then I always appreciated what he tried to accomplish with his work. They all have a certain tone and feel that is special for Tarantino’s directing style and his directorial decisions. But overall his films don’t give me too much.
The first Tarantino movie that really surprised me was his ‘Inglourious Basterds’. I really liked this one. That could be mainly because of the appearance of so many german actors in it. Which was a genious move by Tarantino I would say. Aside of that it was just so beautifully shot! And now comes ‘Django Unchained’ and I was interested to see if the magic of the Basterds movie carried over a bit.
The story is actually fairly simple. Here we have our main character Django (Jamie Foxx) during the 1850s. At first he’s a slave but gets freed by a bounty hunter who needs him to confirm three targets he’s looking for. The bounty hunter, a german by the name of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), now feels responsible for Django and both become friends. Schultz early on discoveres that Django is a very great help with all the bounty hunting business and decides to build a partnership with him. He soon learns that Django has a wife and both decide to find and free her too. On their way they get done some bounty hunting jobs and when the winter ends they start their journey to find the girl. Soon enough they got their first lead that gets them to a plantation and its owner Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Django and Schultz make up a plan to get to Candie and make him invite them to their plantage, where they indeed find Django’s wife. When Candie discoveres, with help of his ‘to the death’ loyal house slave (Samuel L. Jackson), the true intentions of Django and Schultz he goes a little mad and heads start to roll fast.
My last three moviegoing experiences were ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, ‘The Hobbit’ and now ‘Django’. All three of them with an overall running time of 165 minutes. Very long movies. Comparing all three I have to say that Django felt the shortest. The longest sitting was ‘The Hobbit’ for me. Django on the other hand delivers enough suspense to keep you interested. Action scenes were well paced, sprinkled nicely and well balanced into the different parts of the film. It had one or two lenghty moments but nothing that took me out of the movie much. On the other hand it’s a Tarantino movie. You got to expect lots of dialogue scenes.
Since the movie isn’t a big action spectacle and keeps a low profile, I have to talk about the acting in this one. Here the movie plays out its strenghts so damn well. Much like the ‘Basterds’ movie the dialogue scenes here are loaded with suspense. You never know what happens next or where it’s going. The main 4 people in this film are Django, Schultz, Candie and Candie’s house slave Stephen. Django’s part, to me, felt very very flat. And that is no critique. It is a very simple character and Jamie Foxx nails it nicely with mainly facial expressions that say more than words. Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson are the best here though. While Waltz plays the german dentist Dr. King Schultz in a way that makes the audience easily build a connection to him, DiCaprio plays an awesome slimey bad guy. Samuel L. Jackson took his character and plays it in a way that more than once left you thinking if he’s a good or bad guy. Jackson also plays a role that makes him really shine as an actor again. Something where he isn’t the ‘I can do everything and save the day’ type of guy. Actually a very vulnerable character in this movie.
Unlike the other two 160min movies I mentioned, ‘Django Unchained’ was not in 3d. It was also filmed traditionally with a film print. No digital cameras. And while I have nothing against digital camera work and (for the most part) nothing against 3d, I just have to say that it was such a pleasant experience to watch this movie! It was beautifully shot and I didn’t see any quality issues whatsoever. And the most important fact is that I was never taken out of the movie because of some stupidly executed post converted fake 3d effect. Despite the overwhelmingly positive critics and fan response I don’t think the 3d hype will stop. Instead I’ll see even more unnecessary stuff come out. Like 48 frames per second. I say USELESS!
The movie also generated a lot of buzz caught a lot of flak because of all the blatant racism going on in it. And there I have to ask why? While the movie is indeed very much fictional, I bet my right arm that the racism, portayed in this movie, is pretty much accurate for the 1850s. Yes the ‘N’ word is used in every sentence possible but nowhere in the movie does it say that it’s good to use this word. On the contrary! Every single time we see something cruel happen to one of the slaves we also see the reaction of the german Dr. King Schultz character. He’s through and through disgusted by how the black people are treated. And that’s the statement right there. Why is no one talking about that? I mean… think about how it must have been for a civilized person to see how brutal one human being can be to another, without any justifiable reason. And this brutality was just reality in that time. Much like the Nazi’s burning the jews in their concentration camps. Every now and then it’s necessary to remember people how it was not so long ago.
Did I mention that the movie is also very violent? No? Well then consider it mentioned now. The use of fake blood in this movie could surely easily fill a bathtub or two. And while this as well generated a lot of controversy I have to counter with the argument that this is a movie. A movie with fictional characters and a fictional story. People who are not able to separate reality from a movie have a problem to begin with. It’s also the responsiblity of the parents to not let their kids see such movies. Especially Tarantino films. I personally liked the violence in this movie. Its purpose to make certain scenes hard to watch just works and is intended. And certain scenes will definitely make you cringe a bit. I really liked this. It’s a bold and necessary move to stay true to the story that’s told in this movie.
To counter that hard reality and brutality of the 1850s, we have some very delicious kind of humour in this movie. The timing and execution of these, sometimes a little over the top, scenes is just perfect. Even the partly ‘over the topness’ doesn’t hurt the movie at all. First of all you are constantly reminded that this is a Tarantino movie. You got to expect the unexpected. And Tarantino delivers exactly that. And sometimes you really have to laugh out loud at what he’s delivering. I don’t know how this guy is doing it, but it works perfectly. Django Unchained might be the most funny movie Tarantino did so far. And the actors do a very great job at delivering that humour. Especially Christoph Waltz is just perfect in acting out the most usual lines of text in a way that makes them sound and look funny.
To round this up with technical things then I have to repeat what I said earlier. The movie is very pleasant to watch. And all that without 3d, digital camera work or 48 frames per second. This movie finally felt like a movie again. I kinda missed that. Tarantino movies are famous for their soundtracks and Django does have some interesting music choices as well. Some of them hit you in the face a bit. At least me. They, however, never felt too much out of place. The camera work and editing is an homage to the old spaghetti western movies. That style is all over the movie, works nicely and generates the right feel for the film.
Yes this movie managed to carry over what I liked in the ‘Inglourious Basterds’ movie. Enough babble… go treat yourself with one of the best movies out there. It’s worth the cash!
My final words are: DiCaprio should have been nominated for the Oscar!