(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.
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