January 20, 2013 by CINEfaction Movie Review.
Django Unchained isn’t Tarantino’s most consistent work nor is it his best, it is however, still a truly great spectacle.
The film initially focuses on Dr Schultz (Waltz) who is a skilled and charismatic bounty hunter. The good doctor soon enlists the help of a hopeless slave called Django (Foxx) who crucially can identify conclusively the men currently on Schultz’s kill list. Shultz who is sympathetic to the black slaves of the deep south despite his own morally corrupt profession, soon sees the potential and merit in having Django around. Then the focus shifts as we learn that Django has been separated from his wife and the odd pair endeavour to rescue her from a plantation run by the eccentric and possibly psychotic Candie (DiCaprio).
I’ll start by stating the obvious, Tarantino is a Cinephile. This often works to his advantage but every so often its a hindrance, Django represents a good case to highlight this. Django’s opening two acts are very strong, focusing on character and setting, providing us with a rich and inviting world that is equal parts grim and hilarious. However, much like Tarantino’s more recent efforts Inglorious Basterds and Kill Bill, Django suffers from an odd and inconsistent tone. When the film is funny, it is very funny. When it is sad, it is truly heartbreaking (see all of the numerous torture scenes). However, when the shoot-outs and action began, by and large i switched off. The violence here is campy (as are most of the performances) but there is an odd cinematic grandiosity that simply isn’t present in much of the rest of the film. It is strange to focus so much on character and development to dispel it so whimsically with a series spurts and loud bangs. Its mainly the last act that is afflicted with this problem, bullets fly and blood is spilt but the films bite and feeling gets lost in the mêlée. Django himself soon becomes a caricature, he becomes the movie equivalent of what his character sets out to be at the start of the movie and this is a shame. Thus, the last 45 minutes is shade too light and throwaway, seemingly at odds with the world Tarantino painted with his first hour and 45 minutes.
The above being said the film is still masterfully crafted. Everything from the tawdry vernacular (i wont comment on the rights and wrongs use of the N word), to the costume design right through to the performances are simply sublime. Waltz, Foxx and DiCaprio are all great as the various shades of humanity on parade but its Waltz who again steals the show. His charming, effervescent musings mixed with his unwavering empathy make Schultz a force of nature from his brash entrance to his heroic exit in the film. All of the Tarantino-isms are present, the fluid use of time, witty villainous monologuing, extreme violence and an expert use of cinema language. Tarantino shuffles his deck like few can and once again shows why he is a true original. Most films struggle to nail down one mode or tone and Tarantino valiantly tries (with varying success) to juggle a plethora of moods with an intelligence and arrogance few can match. Case in point is the films tongue in cheek seriousness, even in the face of Django’s vengeful retribution the film isn’t afraid to jolt straight back into farce with the wink of an eye.
It might be a little long for some and it could have been wrapped up more cleanly but hey, thats just not the Tarantino way. I think a more straight forward, more succinct ending would have been more effective than the one offered here but Tarantino is much more comfortable being subversive and revelling is his ever colouful, lovingly created pastiches.
So in short, this is an often great but ultimately solid piece of cinema and yet another interesting chapter in the already bulging book of Quentin Tarantino.