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Django Unchained

December 30, 2012

django-unchained-posterYou know what’s awesome about movies? Their ability to give the underdog his place in the sun, plus they can create elaborate worlds and alternate realities that can mentally and physically inspire viewers. Tarantino is well aware of this, why else would he have created Django? A story about a slave freed by a German bounty hunter to take down his former owners along with a slew of other outlaws, while ultimately on a quest to rescue his wife can only make sense in the realm of cinema. Django acknowledges the severity of slavery while also rewriting history enough to present a successful hero for the time, one not only representative of slave revolters but also the long ignored black cowboys of the Old West.

Django, even more so than past Tarantino films, is a cinephile’s wet dream. It jam packs elements from American Western films, Italian Spaghetti Westerns, Buddy Cop films, and 70’s Blaxploitation with a style all of Tarantion’s own. Now of course the violence of Django is heavy but also beautifully cinematic, in spite of its gruesomeness. Tarantino doesn’t desensitize you to his violence, what he does instead is set a bar of morality in deaths. There’s nothing stylized about seeing characters whipped, that is until Django gets the chance to whip an abusive slave owner. The scene slows down the action as he swings with fierce determination and vengeance followed by the loud cracking of the whip as it connects with the body of the owner. I couldn’t help but grin with glee. It’s sickening to watch a scene of a character being attacked by dogs, but it’s pleasing to sit through a scene of blood spraying against walls out of the bodies of dirty, grimy slave owners. Like film’s of the past in Classical Hollywood days, Tarantino reminds us of the pleasures in watching the bad guy get what’s coming to him, it’s the good helpless guys suffering that evoke empathy and reminds you of the reality of a situation.

The performances all around from major characters are beyond amazing. Jamie Foxx is incredible as the head strong yet cautious Django. He has the prowess of Shaft with a sincerity that Foxx creates all on his own. He’s shines in spite of sharing the screen with the always spectacular Christophe Waltz as Dr. Schultz. Samuel L. Jackson plays a hilariously complex character, Stephen, and Leonardo DiCaprio gives a menacingly enchanting performance as slave owner Calvin Candie, arguably his greatest performance. There’s little slack in the two hours and 55 minutes of Django that take place. Everything moves quickly when it needs to and wades patiently when necessary as well.

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However, Django’s not all perfect. Usually Tarantino has a knack for presenting audiences with strong female characters who have a set place in his films, that’s absent in Django. Female characters get screen time but no life and rarely any lines, they instead are merely plot devices used to keep the story rolling. Also the soundtrack at times is not only confusing but downright laughable due to certain contemporary song choices used throughout that at times do nothing more than distract a scene instead of giving it more power.

I was disappointed by Tarantino’s last effort Inglorious Basterds, a film that I felt was tedious, lazy and uninspiring. I didn’t hate it but I could have done without seeing it. I was worried that maybe Tarantino lost his mojo, but Django proves anything but. It reminded me why I love Quentin Tarantino, and the reason is simply because I love movies. I get a resurgence of energy when I watch a great film. I get loud and defensive when talking about them. My brain’s synapses spark with excitement when I learn about them. They’re my thing and Tarantino creates films in ways nerds like me appreciate complete with quick pans, perspective point of view shots, rack focus, and an array of cinematic techniques associated with films of the past or only used in a Tarantino film.

No Django is not a perfectly historical insight into slavery. No Tarantino doesn’t create any new dialogue about the nature of evil in man. No there isn’t even a life lesson to be made from it either. Instead he uses slavery as a backdrop to create his own revenge fantasy for others to see and share the same joy in that fantasy. Does that change the reality of history? No, but no film is capable of that, it’s not the job of a movie.

SEE IT. Immediately! It’s just too much greatness in one movie.

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