Quentin Tarantino’s latest offering, spaghetti western blaxploitation movie Django Unchained, is one that has yielded much discussion in the past few weeks. Slavery, a topic so frequently tiptoed around by filmmaker’s, has been tackled with an affront that can surely be expected of any Tarantino flick. Here it forms the backdrop to an engaging revenge tale. Already proving to be very successful in America (at least, at the box office) there’s a lot to appreciate in Django Unchained. However, some moviegoers may be put off by Tarantino’s take on the horrors of the time.
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Set in 1858 two years before the civil war, the narrative kicks off when unapologetic German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) frees slave Django (Jamie Foxx) to help him track down cruel outlaws the Brittle brothers. When the unlikely partners learn that Django’s wife Broomhilda Von Shaft (Kerry Washington) is the property of despicable plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), they embark on a quest to rescue her.
Right from the attention grabbing opening, Tarantino’s trademark wit and panache are very apparent. The first act in particular is a blast as Django and Schultz join forces, and Waltz’s delivery complements the supreme quality of Django’s script. The actor, who also had a memorable turn in Tarantino’s previous film Inglorious Basterds, is delightful to watch, bringing charm as well as humanity to the role in the film’s more brutal moments, and the nominations and awards he has gotten thus far is warranted.
It should be mentioned that this being both a western and a Tarantino movie, there is a healthy quota of blood-spraying violence. The gunplay is both frenetic and fantastic however, and it’s all set to an eclectic soundtrack mix – how many films would feature both John Legend and Ennio Morricone and make it work after all?
There are many great cameo appearances to be discovered in Django Unchained, and a scene involving Jonah Hill is particularly humorous. Even so, it’s the lead performers that steal the show. Like Waltz, DiCaprio’s Candie is blessed with some great dialogue, and a soon to become infamous dinner table scene sees the actor at his most captivating . Samuel L. Jackson’s slave master Stephen is even more menacing and vile than his malevolent boss, and truly these are two villains who we are eager to see get their comeuppance. Foxx’s turn as the titular hero may not be as flamboyant, but it’s just as noteworthy; the character grows more confident as the story progresses and Foxx gets ample time to shine in the film’s final act.
However, for all the entertainment Django Unchained undoubtedly delivers, you’d be forgiven for watching large parts of it with a grimace. Not for nothing is slavery a tricky subject to portray on screen, and the question of whether Tarantino’s typically blatant depiction of violence is suitable for such a reverent topic is a valid one. Additionally, the director’s customary cameo at one of the film’s focal points is more of a distraction than a highlight, and perhaps a little more restraint in these areas would have gone a long way. With that said, ‘restraint’ is not a word you’ll ever hear in conjunction with Tarantino. A glance at his filmography will tell you that the auteur is just as unfettered as his protagonist, and Django Unchained is in keeping with the filmmaker’s best efforts.
“Any Last Words?” As entertaining as it is disturbing, but choc full with brilliant performances. Taken at face value Django Unchained proves to be an engaging cinematic experience.
Django Unchained hits UK cinemas today. Check out the trailer below.