Friday, 25 January 2013
Django Unchained - A Review
Quentin Tarantino is back with another star-studded cast for Django Unchained, the visionary directors take on a Spaghetti Western with a twist- its setting in the Deep South during the antellebum era, most notable for the brutal slavery of African-Americans. Django, played by Jamie Foxx, is one such slave, who is freed by bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz) in order to locate a gang of villians that Schultz has been tracking. Eventually the duo form a partnership and begin searching for Django's enslaved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is being held by enigmatic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
The obvious comparison to be made with Django Unchained is Tarantino's previous work Inglorious Basterds. It would seem that the director has acquired a taste for epic period pieces with a particular blend of fact and fiction, so Django certainly had a lot to live upto in following the historically inaccurate WWII spoof, for my money Tarantino's best effort since 1994's Pulp Fiction. Thankfully, Django Unchained is equal to its predecessor, and makes for another qualified Tarantino masterpiece largely due to the same factors that made Inglorious Basterds so memorable- wonderfully stylised production and design, memorable dialogue and several outstanding individual performances.
It's hard to know where to start with praising members of the cast but the obvious one for critics has been Christoper Waltz, who once again delivers an engaging, often hilarious performance that easily rivals his acclaimed turn as Nazi officer Hans Landa for which he took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2009. DiCaprio is in equal parts menacing and delightfully witty as the charasmatic Candie, while Washington makes a true emotive connection with the audience as the tortured Broomhilda.
The stand-out role for me however was not Waltz despite his heroics but Foxx as the quiet centerpiece of the film with a masterful portrayal of Django that is developed skillfully over the course of the 165 minutes running time. Beginning as a broken down, fragile soul lost in the brutal slave trade, Foxx gracefully manages to transform the main character into a fully fledged ''bad ass muthafucka'' in the words of Samuel L Jackson (another excellent addition to the cast as Stephen, the hysterically loyal servant of Candie). The gradual manner in which Foxx develops the protagonist makes Django's redemption all the more satisfying for the audience and the actor deserves real credit for the role.
While the usual Tarantino quirks are here in abundance (the graphic violence, outrageous one-liners, exceptional soundtrack), the director opts not to use his typically wayward structuring this time around. In contrast to past favourites, Django is a relatively straightforward experience which makes no use of the infamous time shifting style of Tarantino and this works against the plot, creating a slight lull mid way through the near 3 hour running time (a small criticism and my only one).
Ultimately, Tarantino has taken another dark historical setting and transformed it to suit his bizarre imagination. The result is pure entertainment, and Django Unchained is yet another Quentin Tarantino masterpiece.