(Quentin Tarantino, 2012)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: Tarantino's spaghetti western finally arrives, backed by a posse of wild performances and lashings of violence that threatrens to outstay its welcome.
With 'Django Unchained', Quentin Tarantino finally gets to make his long awaited spaghetti western, an homage to the likes of 'Django' and 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly'. Technically this isn't so as the term 'spaghetti western' refers to Italian shoestring genre cinema but like he did with his loose war exploitation remake 'Inglourious Basterds', Tarantino has filled in the gaps with sledgehammer precision.
Set against an unforgiving backdrop of racial oppression, 'Django Unchained' centres around the titular slave (Jamie Foxx) who is unchained by the eccentric German bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Together they journey to a plantation called CandieLand owned by the violent figurehead Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) to buy a slave named Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who, we discover, is Django's wife. Complicating things is Candie's savvy butler Stephen (Samuel L Jackson) who we suspect is really the man behind CandieLand - a black man in a racist world who, like Django, has developed real power.
'Django Unchained' has plenty to say about racism and oppression, but it really pulls the rug from under the viewer when it starts to ask them who exactly are the good guys. Given the suject matter, that's brave and (naturally) controversial. Tarantino asks questions and then shoots later, giving us the best of both worlds.
Like all Tarantino flicks, 'Django Unchained' wears its influences on its bloodstained sleeve but at nearly three hours it threatens to outstay its welcome. There's a hilarious scene between a plantation owner (a brilliantly cast Don Johnson) and his KKK-style posse leader (Jonah Hill) about the design flaws of wearing white sacks with tiny eye slits before they ambush their target. The writing is so slick and enjoyable, you don't really care that the scene isn't really that important. The same goes for Tarantino's cameo as an Australian slave driver. There are a few more similar moments which, when added together, add plenty of flavour but little meat to the one pot genre cocktail.
As well as functioning as a wonderful catch-and-release of tonal shifts, it's a film of dynamic brilliance. It could make a good case for the argument that films are living, breathing entities. As he did with 'Basterds', Christoph Waltz steals the show as the German bounty hunter whose second language is English but he is more eloquent than anybody else in the picture. Django is the least interesting major character in the piece, acting more like our eyes to this world but given how rich Tarantino has made his vistas you welcome this set of roaming eyes. A film of harsh beauty, 'Django Unchained' is a triumph.
Check out the theatrical trailer and more stills from 'Django Unchained' HERE at Cinemas Online.
Other film news
Axel Foley is back: Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer (newly released from the family-friendly constraints of Disney) are finally bringing 'Beverly Hills Cop 4' to the screen with Eddie Murphy reprising his role as the wisecracking, cheeky cop.
2012's critically acclaimed hit thriller 'Jack Reacher' is getting a sequel with Tom Cruise on board to reprise his role and produce via Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.
It was a ceremony of ties at the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards as both 'Gravity' and 'Her' shared the Best Picture prizes and James Franco and Jared Leto tied for Best Supporting Actor for their performances in 'Spring Breakers' and 'Dallas Buyers Club', while Cate Blanchett and AdÃ¨le Exarchopoulos also split the award for Best Actress for 'Blue Jasmine' and 'Blue is the Warmest Colour'.
Steve McQueen's historical drama '12 Years A Slave' has been named Best Picture at the New York Online Critics Awards.
Another dark horse has levelled the awards season playing field: Spike Jonze's 'Her' has bagged Best Film and Best Director at the National Board of Review.
The awards season is only just heating up and it's already had its first curveball thrown into the mix: David O Russell's 'American Hustle' took the top prize at the New York Film Critics Circle.
Pop star Rita Ora has joined the cast of upcoming erotic drama 'Fifty Shades of Grey', it has been confirmed.
'Fast & Furious' star Paul Walker's road traffic death shocked the entertainment world recently with numerous rumours being reported, but now investigators have stated that they are not looking for a second car.
Quentin Tarantino has put the rumours to rest concerning his hugely anticipated next project by confirming that it will be another western but not a sequel to his last effort, the Oscar winning 'Django Unchained'.
48-year-old tough guy footballer-turned-film star Vinnie Jones is in treatment for skin cancer.
Tough guy actor Jason Statham has made it known that he thinks that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which determines the Oscars, should recognize stunt actors with their own Oscar category.
'Clueless' actress Brittany Murphy died young in 2009 aged just 32. The Los Angeles County Coroner said at the time it was due to pneumonia but now fresh revelations suggest that the starlet was poisoned.
Oscar nominee Don Cheadle is making a few of his wishes come true: he will direct his first film and star as one of his greatest inspirations, jazz musician Miles Davis, in a forthcoming screen biopic.
Famous screen and music siblings Mark and Donnie Wahlberg are headed to reality TV: A&E network in the States has signed the duo for new show 'Wahlburgers'.
'Starred Up', a prison drama starring Jack O'Connell is leading the way in this year's BIFA nominations with eight nominations.
In a rare move for a franchise of this scale, Disney will hold open casting auditions in the UK for two lead roles in 'Star Wars: Episode VII'.
Harry Potter himself, star Daniel Radcliffe, has joined the cast of Olympic rivalry drama 'Gold'.
Jamie Dornan, the northern Irish former Calvin Klein model turned actor, has been cast as Christian Grey in the forthcoming 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.
Famed for his tough guy roles in the likes of 'The Dark Knight Rises', 'Bronson' and 'Lawless', Tom Hardy is taking his career in a new direction: he's just been confirmed to play Elton John in Rocket Picturesâ 'Rocketman'.
Here's some groovy news for 'Evil Dead' fans: Bruce Campbell has confirmed that he will reprise his cult role as Ash for an 'Army of Darkness' sequel.