Django Unchained Review

The Plot:

After a bounty hunter recruits a slave called Django to help track down his latest payday the two become unlikely friends and partners. Together the pair set out to free Django’s wife Broomhilda from the clutches of a ruthless and sadistic Mississippi plantation owner.

The Good:

Quentin Tarantino reached new heights of blood soaked brilliance with Inglorious Basterds, his invigorating take on World War 2 and the pleasures of Nazi killing. With Django Unchained the infamous director once again takes a delightful revisionist approach to history, this time to the well-known evils of slavery.  The result is an original deeply satisfying reinvigoration of the Western genre packed with bullets, style and substance.

Amongst all the bloody vengeance and tension, Tarantino even manages to inject some welcome humour. It’s a trait clearly borrowed from the winning formula of the classic ‘Spaghetti Westerns’; taking the sting out of so much human death and misery with clever black comedy and occasional absurdity.  An excellent example of this in Django Unchained is a scene in which a bickering group of Ku Klux Klan members ineptly attempt to plan a midnight raid. Tarantino’s script is exquisitely crafted and precisely balanced.

Christoph Waltz won a well-deserved Oscar for his dangerously charismatic performance as a Nazi ‘Jew hunter’ in Inglorious Basterds, this time in his role as a good natured bounty hunter sparkles with the exactly the same magnificence. Flashing between wry humour and fierce tension Waltz is consistently brilliant and a strong contender for another academy award.

Jamie Foxx is a likewise a perfect fit for Django, playing him like a cunning combination of Shaft and Clint Eastwood. Without him the film would surely have struggled to maintain its flawless bravado and would have been a far less credible adventure.

Leonardo DiCaprio has great fun playing against type as the decadently depraved and sadistic plantation boss Calvin Candie. He clearly relishes the opportunity to play with a malevolent southern drawl and human skulls. Samuel L. Jackson is another stellar addition to Django’s impressive acting arsenal, playing Candie’s viciously shrewd right hand man.

Django’s soundtrack is another equally powerful presence in the film. Music has always been Tarantino’s secret weapon, consistently elevating scenes to iconic moments of unquestionable cool. Typically Tarantino has captured this magic by cannibalising classic film scores and resurrecting long forgotten favourite songs. This time he adds original recordings to the mix and produces a devastatingly effective fusion of iconic western sounds and hip hop. It’s a unique musical mash up that epitomises the film’s swaggering charms.

The Bad:

Before Django Unchained even had a trailer it had vocal critics. Fellow filmmakers like Spike Lee voiced angry concerns that turning the horrors of slavery into the backdrop of a flamboyant western would unavoidably be disrespectful and perhaps even outright offensive. Presumably it was suspected that Tarantino’s trademark focus on one liners and style might prevent him doing justice to such serious historical subject matter.

Though Tarantino’s script is predictably loaded with frequent use of the inflammatory N-word, it never fails to powerfully remind audiences just how horrific human slavery is. It’s the right and responsibility of filmmakers to attack evil by ridiculing its absurdities, exposing its wrongs and symbolically righting them through powerful heroic figures. That’s exactly what Django Unchained does.

Squeamish fans may be a little hesitant about rushing to see Django because of Tarantino’s reputation for blood soaked violence. The Kill Bill films in particular were a messy orgy of death, dismemberment and gruesome eye gouging. Although there may be plenty of gushing blood in Django when the bullets start flying, in reality the quick bursts of action are too frantic for any lingering gruesomeness. The film’s violence is mostly too fast and cartoonish to spoil an entertaining ride, even for more sensitive souls.

The Ugly Truth:

Django Unchained is a bloody brilliant masterpiece that shoots fresh life into the Western genre. A smoothly crafted script, a killer soundtrack and a near perfect cast makes this film easily one of Tarantino’s most satisfying and original efforts.

Check out Interviews below from the red carpet at the London premiere:

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