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May 31, 2013

Review: Django Unchained (2012)

           Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Don Johnson, Laura Cayouette, Dennis Christopher, James Russo, James Remar, Tom Wopat, Misty Upham, Rex Linn, Cooper Huckabee, Doc Duhame, M. C. Gainey, Bruce Dern, Ned Bellamy, Franco Nero, Jonah Hill, Zoe Bell, Robert Carradine, James Parks, Tom Savini, Michael Parks, John Jarratt and Quentin Tarantino.


                   Quentin Tarantino


                 Django Unchained, the latest film by the ever insane Quentin Tarantino is what i would call the quintessential Tarantino flick. Its definitely one of the most entertaining films from last year in a very guilty pleasure way. That is not to say that it is a bad movie but that its so ultra-violent and filled with blood and fights and cartoonish villains that you actually have a great time watching the madness unfold right in front of your eyes. This is the kind of movie that only Tarantino can make because he has the craft to turn some of the most bizarre and serious events that happened in the history and show them with all their sincerity while highlighting their ugliness and why we as human beings are ashamed of them. He is usually known for his typical revenge movies, this is a revenge movie too but Tarantino has been much more interested in how cinema has treated these movies in the past. His previous effort was "Inglorious Basterds" which i consider a much better and perfect film but this will remind you of the kind of a movie it was and how the mixture of several sub-genres of movies brought what i would call a delicious cinematic feast for us. Django Unchained itself was widely acclaimed by both critics and the audiences and won many awards including original screenplay and supporting actor for Christoph Waltz (again for a Tarantino movie) along with many other nominations in various awards groups. While this may not be a flawless or a brilliant movie but it is definitely traditional Tarantino-ish in terms of its nature which is enough for someone like me to appreciate the experience i have watching it. Now Django Unchained is a mixture of the Spaghetti Western films that were done by Sergio Leone with the Blaxploitation genre that was a hit back then along with the Southern pulpy dramas and added to that, its a blood-filled revenge fantasy. There are memorable characters, dialogues, locations, songs, cameos and all in all, this is very rich cinematically.

                 The plot revolves around a slave (Foxx) who is freed by a bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Waltz). The slave who gets the name of Django is on a mission to rescue his wife Broomhilda (Washington) who was sold to a cruel plantation owner Calvin Candie (DiCaprio). Schultz himself has a reason for freeing Django because he is after some men with a bounty on their heads that only Django can identify so its kind of a symbiotic relationship where both will get benefited by each other. What follows is a journey across different landscapes of the country featuring many encounters and interesting situations. From the very first sequence that features the slaves being transported to Schultz being his charming self, you know how the sudden shift to violence creates an uncertain feeling in contrast to the silence and long conversations that Tarantino usually uses. In his films, the first scene has to leave an impact and it has to get you going and makes you well prepared for the gruesome madness that you will find in abundance in his movies. Schultz despises slavery and he keeps Django as an equal. When a white man and a black man is seen riding on a horse together in a town, the people are shocked to see this and they get offended too. This is the example of Tarantino's playful nature that always is an integral part of his movies where the impossible or unimaginable things happen for no reason but for Tarantino to just free himself from the (with all due respect) filmmakers who have been making such movies in a more serious light and a repressed way or should i say quite typical in their approach of dealing with a certain important situation. And its not offensive and neither is he trying to hurt a community or race. Both Django and Schultz gets along very well as they both share their experiences and stories. They also succeeds in getting their jobs done along the way, killing all those who've had money on their heads. We see some very ruthless and disturbing ways slaves are being treated, they are beaten in unmentionable ways.

                 Django Unchained is nearly 3 hours long movie, a bit too long definitely. If you divide it into three parts then the first half is quite entertaining and well made with Django-Schultz, the second half gets a bit messy and stagnant once they reaches the "Candyland" and then the final act which is filled with red pulp sprayed everywhere. Will i call this an uneven experience? yes of course because its editing should have been done with a bit more precision, some scenes feels way too long even for Tarantino as the conversations and dynamics at the particular moments loses their intensity and power but it still goes on and on. Its very sad that Tarantino's usual collaborator on the editing side, Sally Menke died so this job was done by someone else and her absence is felt pretty gravely. Django Unchained's cinematography is done by Robert Richardson the three-times Academy Award winner who recently won for "Hugo". His camera movements are perfect for capturing the signature qualities of any particular setup that is being done in a movie, whether they are vast and sweeping lands, digitally generated cities or period films. He captures the colors and contrasts of every single place that is there, presenting us a rich visual experience. Now what is a Tarantino movie without the use of some songs or particular music pieces, well here he just outdone himself by adding a bit too many songs in the movie even if a few of them don't really go well with their particular moments. But still, most of the times they really increases the outcome. There is a big track list which i am sure many of you have already checked out, there are some really good songs. Talking about performances, Leonardo DiCaprio has to be my favorite among the cast as he gets to do something really different. DiCaprio gets to be a bad guy for a change, a really ruthless and sadistic kind of a man obsessed with power and money. I thought he was perfect for this gravely over the top role, its fun seeing him have fun with his character and not take it too damn seriously. Christoph Waltz plays the most lovable character, not a surprise. Though he is almost doing the same thing he did in the previous Tarantino movie but here, his role is that of a good guy instead of a bad one. The charm is still here, he gets to be more funny and dynamic, more free. Still i don't think his performance was the best of the year or that it was any different from what he usually do, its just that his character was really lovable that is all. Samuel L. Jackson gets to play a role that truly is the highlight of the movie, its been really long since i have seen him doing something this interesting. He looks very scary and plays a very cunning and sincere friend to Candie. Jamie Foxx shines in his role, he could have been better acting wise but physically he was the best choice for it. There is Kerry Washington who we don't really get to see much but she is fine as well in her role.

                Django Unchained with all its flaws is a very campy fun, quite shocking and exhilarating film experience with all its social commentary and its deeply rooted in cinematic excellence, provides us with lots of things to enjoy and detest. There are some sharply comic sequences, some very depressing scenes of slavery, violent outbursts and long conversations amid to the beautiful outdoor and indoor locations with brilliant cast and a director at the top of his game. Django Unchained is super fun in a twisted way.

Grade: A-