Ironically Django Unchained seems to have been given the tag of a Western, yet it takes place purely in the American Deep South, two years before the outbreak of civil war.
‘Unchained’ holds certain similarities with the classic Spaghetti Westerns, but manages to move seamlessly between brutal violence and high stakes drama, while having the underpinning story of a Blaxploitation film. Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, the first since 2009’s Inglorious Basterds, is a fantastic piece of cinema, a story of revenge, an unlikely friendship and so much more wrapped into a near three hour running time.
Excellent performances from all
The standout performance in ‘Basterds’ was easily Christoph Waltz, his crafty, menacing portrayal of an SS soldier during World War Two was a revelation and he’s back again for Django Unchained. He plays Dr. King Schultz; a dentist turned Bounty Hunter who frees Django (Jamie Foxx) from slavery in order to hunt down the Brittle Brothers, a trio of ruthless killers.
As with any Tarantino film the screenplay is terrific and it really has to be, as a large portion of film is conducted through dialogue. The interplay between conversation, heavy scenes and pure blood splattering violence is what takes this beyond a simple action thriller. The introduction of Leonardo Di Caprio’s Calvin Candie adds even more bite to the dialogue. Di Caprio shows again why he is one of the most diverse performers in the industry; his performance is deep, threatening and devious, only showing flashes of his true self until the final chapter.
There is no doubt that this is a violent film, what else would you expect from Tarantino? And definitely not for the faint hearted. Blood splatters from heads, arms and kneecaps, with nothing being deemed to extreme. It does not quite hit Kill Bill’s threshold for blood shooting from exposed limbs, but it is rawer and, at times, can be quite a hard watch.
Boundaries are not just crossed with violence, but also with language. The N-word is uttered frequently throughout, though it feels necessary, not just used for dramatic effect. It pulls no punches in creating a setting steeped in slavery and racial inequality.
Controversy is not far behind
At 165 minutes it is a long film and perhaps a quarter of an hour too long, though the final scenes are full throttle (apart from the cringe-worthy Aussie accented cameo of Tarantino) and is in stark contrast to the tense, but subdued middle act.
Controversy will no-doubt put a halt to any Oscar Best Picture ambitions, however by doing this they are preventing a truly worthy winner and Tarantino missing out on the nod for best director is astonishing. Django Unchained is witty, perfectly presented and,in a world full of 3D and paint-by-numbers blockbusters, a breath of fresh air.