Thoughts on… Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained, 2012.

Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino.
Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Michael Parks, Don Johnson and Jonah Hill.

Django Unchained movie poster

 
SYNOPSIS:

A bounty hunter frees a slave in return for his assistance and a friendship develops between the two which results in a quest to find and free the former slave’s wife.

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained

When watching a Quentin Tarantino film there are 3 things that can usually be counted on to bring enjoyment to my viewing experience; interesting characters, humorous dialogue and some graphic violence. Django Unchained delivers on all accounts, but fails in another Tarantino staple, which we’ll get to first.

Set two years before the American Civil War – when slavery was still legal – we are shown the very brutal side of slavery, which at times is immensely sickening.  This is to Tarantino’s credit; to make a film about such a topic and to show the shocking nature of it is something we needed to see, and to discuss.  Unfortunately too much of Tarantino bleeds over in to the film – which was to be expected – and right from the opening sequence scenes are drawn out far too long.  What works so well in his earlier works, a la Pulp Fiction and its long scenes of random conversation, fails in Django Unchained.  The pacing and editing of the film are at times immensely jarring and suspense obliterating.  In fact in one particular sequence when Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) are being charged at by men in white hoods on horses, the editing was some of the worst I had seen in a while. The sequencing of events and move from present to past back to present served no purpose, and was detrimental to the suspense in the scene.  Django Unchained, to me, felt like it could have very easily been 30 minutes shorter and been all the better for it.

There is a lot to love in this film however, especially our two main characters, Django and Schultz.  Foxx is great in the role of Django, a timid unsure man when he is first freed to a volcano of rage and vengeance when attempting to save his wife.  Christoph Waltz is the star of the show however in what is a fantastic turn as Dr. King Schultz, providing much of the snappy dialogue and wit throughout.  There is a great dynamic that plays out between the two, which was the strongest part of the film and lends a great deal of warmth to the tale.

The rest of cast each do a good job; Leonardo DiCaprio as slave plantation owner Calvin Candie is not quite as great as I had hoped, however he puts in a good performance, albeit one which is far from his best work.  There are moments of his wonderful acting talents however when the venom within his character is allowed to spill out, and the anger and viciousness his character harbours is extremely well encapsulated by DiCaprio.  Samuel L. Jackson, always a great addition to a Tarantino film, is adequate in his role.

The violence and action which a Tarantino film so dictates are on the comedic end of the spectrum here, as opposed to the shocking nature of their inclusion in say Reservoir Dogs, but they are extremely fun to watch. Above all else that is what Django Unchained is – an immensely fun movie, which unfortunately could have been better had Tarantino reigned himself in a little, but still one that is a great addition to his filmography.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★

Martin Deer

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