Quentin Tarantino is back in the saddle once again for yet another piece of film making delight and on this particular occasion quite literally. Tarantino's journey across the genres of "pulp" gangster movies, tales of samurai revenge and the re-writing of World War II history has taken him to the next logical destination, which was always bound to be a recreation of the classic western. This latest imagining set to make its mark on the silver screen is titled Django Unchained.
In recent years Quentin Tarantino's "indie" credentials have taken a step to the side for films more accurately described as must see blockbusters, if not solely due to the star studded ensembles he has put together. Django Unchained is no exception. The all star cast features the likes of Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. Actors Don Johnson and Jonah Hill also feature in extremely memorable cameos.
Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
Django Unchained follows the events of "black" slavery in the United States of America two years prior to the civil war between the north and south. Conveniently set in the "south" where slavery was at its worst, we are introduced to the main protagonist Django played by Jamie Foxx. Django is an African slave who we eventually discover has been unjustly separated from his wife Broomhilda and is seeking revenge and retribution.
Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
Events begin to accelerate with the introduction of the wonderful Christoph Waltz who plays the unlikely yet eloquent German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schulz. Dr. Schulz just so happens to be on the trail of the notorious "Brittle brothers". This introduction also happens to facilitate Django's freedom under the condition that Django points out the band of criminally minded brothers who are wanted for murder by the U.S. Marshals office.
In a convenient turn of events these brothers are also happen to be responsible for Django's current predicament, providing a perfect opportunity for vengeance. In what becomes an epic tale over 2 hours and 45 minutes, the trail leads Django and Schulz to discover the location of Django's wife Broomhilda played by Kerry Washington. She is now one of the many slaves owned by the ruthless Calvin Candie played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is proprietor of the infamous plantation "Candyland".
From the moment the opening credits roll and the title music begins to play, it becomes highly evident that Tarantino has researched his entire collection of Sergio Leone "Spaghetti Western" classics in preparation for the writing and directing of this film. The opening tune can only be described as music inspired by the great composer Ennio Morricone, and coincidently if you are quick enough to notice you will hear a part of the score composed by Ennio Morricone himself. With small details like this audiences are assured of a special viewing experience.
Django Unchained writer and director Quentin Tarantino
There is really no other way of describing it, Django Unchained is Tarantino's modern day reincarnation of the great "Spaghetti Western". While the film noticeably pays tribute to the Sergio Leone styling, Tarantino in his own right explores highly sensitive themes with his usual spark of humour and witticism. This is not unlike the formula he used in the creation of his last movie Inglourious Basterds. As you would expect, it is a tale of revenge, displaying graphic violence with phenomenal precision which may not be for the faint hearted. However, in this particular case it is absolutely critical to the story and to the themes explored, and it wouldn't quite be a Tarantino movie without it. The film is also laced with salacious dialogue which should keep the true Tarantino fans satisfied.
Jamie Foxx does a marvellous job in portraying Django. His ability to balance submissive vulnerability along with audacious heroism driven by a swelling yet controlled vengeance is a testament to his acting ability. His strongest moments are often without dialogue doing a wonderful job with conveying his thoughts and emotions to the audience.
The star of the movie and top performer without doubt is Christoph Waltz. His intricately humorous dialogue and marvellous phrasing is brilliant to watch. A cool calm and collected bounty hunter with a vindictive streak for his targets along with a humility and barometer for justice is a difficult balance to achieve. In this particular case Waltz accomplishes it with ease. It is no surprise that he has already been nominated for a Golden Globe for this role, and he is definitely on track to back up his Academy Award from 2010 where he achieved best actor in a supporting role for Inglourious Basterds.
Leonardo DiCaprio as the maniacal Calvin Candie has well crafted moments of pure ruthlessness. Amazingly DiCaprio conjures elements of unbelievable sophistication crossed with absolute rage and evil. Although throughout Candie's more overzealous moments DiCaprio can fall out of character, appearing more as an over excitable version of himself rather than the character he is trying to embody. However, this could be unfair criticism and may only be noticeable due to the unbelievably strong performances by the fantastic Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx not far behind.
Samuel L. Jackson makes a marvellous appearance as Calvin Candie's loyal and vindictive house slave Stephen. His performance provides a number of scene stealing moments that at times are as equally hilarious as they are shocking. The role must have challenged many of his instincts, yet he is irreplaceable in the role demonstrating his brilliance as a performer.
Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington in Django Unchained
Kerry Washington's character Broomhilda plays a pivotal role in the film, with the responsibility of driving the momentum of the story. Yet in ironical circumstances her screen time is minimal. Moreover, her dialogue is less than minimal. In reality, her character ends up being more of a damsel in distress as opposed to the leading lady that you may be led to believe. But it must be said that she displays vulnerability well.
Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained
For all those Australian movie lovers out there, Quentin Tarantino has managed to incorporate a small yet significant tribute to Australian film and culture. Tarantino achieves this with a highly unexpected yet incredibly personal touch, which makes it a must see movie for all the Australians out there.
Django Unchained is highly entertaining and a visually wonderful movie to watch. However, it does lack the usual refinement and genius you would expect from a Tarantino epic when compared to the likes of his previous work, particularly Pulp Fiction. While it follows a similar formula to Inglourious Basterds, it never quite reaches the heights you would expect from a Quentin Tarantino movie. This is especially evident with the dialogue which is typically amazing and a trademark of Tarantino films. When watching a Tarantino film you come to expect dialogue which is incredibly swift and devastatingly clever. While there are moments that remind you of this, many of the quick exchanges seem to have been replaced with extraordinary action and graphic violence.
However, the intelligent and humorous way the brutality is presented does fill the void somewhat. This also fits the formula of a classic "Spaghetti Western", with dialogue often being secondary to the story telling process. The brilliant performances of Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson also make up for this, and they both carry the movie in respect to incredibly eloquent and entertaining banter. It is no surprise why Quentin Tarantino has used both actors in multiple films. Overall Django Unchained is a must see movie.