Django Unchained Blu-ray Review

Django Unchained

I will caveat this review by admitting that I have always been a huge Tarantino fan.

If the man shot a ninety minute film about a bowl of a soup, I’d still probably think it a masterpiece.

That’s not to say we haven’t had our ups and downs though.

I wavered a little with the Kill Bill’s and was a bit nonplussed by Death Proof, until Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds decidedly won me back.

Thankfully, Django Unchained continues very much in the same rich vein as the ‘Basterds.

Set in pre-Civil War Deep South America, the film follows the story of recently freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx) and his epic mission to reunite with his wife who’s under the ownership of odious plantation owner Calvin J Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Help is on hand in the form of German bounty hunter Doctor King Schultz (the mighty Christoph Waltz), with whom Django saddles up with and develops some handy sharp-shooting skills.

Oh and it’s pretty safe to say Django has quite the bee in his bonnet over the treatment he’s previously suffered at the hands of some of the more oppressive white folk around.

Which is the cue for a hell of a lot of bloodshed.

At its heart, the film is therefore, like the majority of Tarantino’s films since Jackie Brown, a revenge story. Albeit a revenge story in an uncharted setting for the director.

Where Inglourious Basterds was Tarantino’s take on the war movie, Django Unchained is essentially his take on the western.

There are all the usual Tarantino hallmarks: eclectic soundtrack, spontaneous violence and multiple references to older genre movies, not least the hitherto infamous sixties western Django starring Franco Nero (spot the not-too-subtle cameo).

The film also bears the director’s flair for cranking up unbearable tension, evident in a tense dinner scene where Calvin Candie explains his theory of phrenology.

Amongst the Peckinpah-surpassing violence, the film is probably Tarantino’s best-looking film to date, making full use of sprawling cotton fields and snowy mountains.

DiCaprio particularly impresses in his first full-on villain role, relishing the chance to deliver a classic Tarantinologue midway through, and is nicely complemented by Samuel Jackson’s controversial turn as head slave Stephen. Waltz is strong; self-possessed and witty as always.

Foxx’s broody performance, however, is slightly overshadowed by the rest of the players until the third act when he is given more of a chance to cut loose. And the excellent Kerry Washington sadly doesn’t get much to do as Django’s wife except be rescued.

Sure, the director will come under fire for using one of the most tragic periods of human history as the backdrop for a pulpy, comic-book revenge story.

Ahem. Again.

But overall, the film doesn’t flinch from depicting the horror and brutality of what was seen as the status quo at the time.

Plus let’s face it: it is just a film, for all the social responsibility that may bring.

Ultimately Tarantino once again achieves what the majority of filmmakers today still fail to do: shows us something we haven’t seen before.

Conor Brennan

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May 2013
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