I went into the cinema with absolutely no expectations. I had avoided anything relating to the film with only a glimpse of the poster to suggest any plot or cast. I was even unknowing of whether or not the film was any good. This, I feel, is the ultimate way to watch a film and it paid off! So those who follow my technique please stop reading now and just see the film. It's worth it.
Django Unchained is set in the 1850s in the south of USA. Slavery is part of daily life with racism being prevalent throughout the nation. The story follows a German bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz who liberates a black slave named Django. Schultz invites Django to assist him with his murderous but justified
profession and in return will help Django rescue his wife. Thereby Django joins the bounty hunting business and in doing so becomes a skilled marksman as well as acquiring much needed literary education from Schultz. The unlikely pair face off a series of foes with gruesome and not always expected consequences.
Tarantino has a talent for conveying a genre flawlessly but also redefining it with his innovative film techniques. He currently also seems to bravely venture into weighty thematic territory. Like his last film, Inglourious Basterds, in which he deals with the Nazi persecution of the Jews, Django Unchained deals with
the mistreatment of the black race by the white slavers. It's admirable that Tarantino can still fulfill his desires to recreate his favourite genres (in this case the Spaghetti Western) and still incorporate creditable themes of human injustices. It's almost like he has transcended his cool arty film student stage to tackle material with actual substance.
Don't get me wrong though, the film still oozes Tarantino. His usual humor permeates throughout, even in the most grotesque scenes. His homage to the classic Spaghetti Westerns is evident in his camera techniques. Examples of this include sudden zoom-ins on entering characters, his use of extreme facial close ups, and constant close-ups of feet and gun holsters. He does not shy away from his usual signature techniques either. His use of gratuitous and bloody violence, captivating extended dialogue, fast panning camera work and of course his always hysterically funny cameos by Tarantino himself.
Music is always vital in his films. He often uses already existing songs, but in this movie he also includes an occasional orchestral score. As a further tribute, Tarantino borrows music from certain 1970s Spaghetti classics, additionally instilling the authentic feel. Some of these include scores from the godfather of Spaghetti Western music, Ennio Morricone,
who composed for such greats as Fistful of Dollars, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West. Additionally, Tarantino employs the use of some hip-hop to modernize and enhance the scenes with a sense of "cool" only Tarantino knows how to achieve.
As an aspiring sound designer, I was in heaven with Django Unchained. For want of a better word, the sound design was ridiculous! In a way it was over-the-top and Hollywood however it also intensified the violence and suffering of the film no visuals could have done. Flesh sounds, breaking bones, unbearably loud gunshots, and iron shackle clangs created an overall sense of torment. Furthermore, his use of sound was employed to heighten suspense. A particular scene involving crisp sounds of pouring beer made the scene full of uncertainty and contrast to what was about to happen.
Lastly, the acting was exceptional. Jamie Foxx has risen to be an imposing master of his art. His character, Django, was controlled and full of sentiment yet carnal and instinctual. Christoph Waltz was hilarious as Dr. King Schultz, wittily
humorous but adept with a pistol and ready to take on any hostile foes. Leonardo DiCaprio constantly surprises me with the diversity of roles he can portray. His role as a malevolent Francophile slaver, Calvin Candie, was enthralling. Supposedly a particular scene where Calvin Candie loses his temper smashing his hand on the table and cutting it open on some glass actually happened. DiCaprio, not wanting to break character, continued on with the scene, his hand dripping with blood. Samuel L. Jackson's character is incredibly humorous and a role I have yet to have seen him play.
I cannot stress how innovative and always engrossing Tarantino's films are. He is a modern genius, both saluting cinema of old as well as inventing a new institution. Django Unchained is a heart-felt, brutal, engaging and just plain "cool" film. It will become an instant classic. I'd give it a 9 out of 10.