Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Django Unchained

  • Released Internationally on 25/12/12
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 23/01/13
Preview (first published 01/01/13 in VIDA Magazine)

It must be a good month if a new Tarantino film isn’t film of the month. And of course, it’s unfair to compare, especially with films so diverse. Anyway, one of the most prolific, admired and unique directors of the past twenty years is back, and as usual this promises to be a finely-crafted but boisterous film. After proving his talent with twisted crime dramas (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction), martial arts films (Kill Bill), action films (Death Proof) and war films (Inglourious Basterds), he has now turned to westerns, a genre he loves and has already drawn very obvious inspiration from. The titular Django (Jamie Foxx), an inspiration from the 1966 spaghetti western of the same name, is a freed slave. He teams up with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz, who rose to stardom after stealing the show in Basterds) to hunt down his enemies and free his wife from the clutches of a wealthy slave trader (Leonardo DiCaprio, finally in a proper villain role). There will be action, there will be humour, and it’s a safe bet to say there will be a few ‘wow’ moments. Tarantino has already used music and directing styles from westerns to elevate numerous scenes from his previous films, so it should be fun to see him run amok here.

Review (22/01/13)
There were two major films about slavery released in 2012, but this is the one that makes you squirm. Lincoln showed us the dealings and wheelings that were necessary to help abolish slavery in America, but this film shows it in all its grotesque glory, going seemingly overboard with depicting it as a normal and accepted way of life, despite the day-to-day horrors it entailed.
The D is silent
Jamie Foxx looks stern and focused as the titular hero, as he proceeds, with great sacrifice, on what is essentially a love quest to find and release his wife. He is aided by Christoph Waltz’s cunning bounty hunter, who operates within the boundaries of the law but detests the whole slavery business. His character is entertaining to watch, although it is essentially a continuation of his masterful performance in Inglourious Basterds.
A good hour into the film we meet the main villain of the tale, portrayed with zealous glee by Leonardo Di Caprio. The man is rich, the man is powerful, and the man is disgustingly and convincingly racist, something he believes in like a science. It is at his hands and within his premises that the most flinch-inducing scenes play out, and Tarantino doesn’t hold back when it comes to showing the depravity and horror that slavery can lead to.
Below par
Despite being an entertaining and wonderfully-made film, it’s far from Tarantino’s best, and probably the first time I ever looked at my watch during one of his films. Many of his signature touches are missing, with surprisingly linear storytelling, interrupted only by the occasional flashback or vision. I missed his complex, stylish interludes, so evident in previous films. He also gives himself a cameo, which results in him looking and sounding very out of place towards the end of the film - a far cry from his wonderful role back in Reservoir Dogs.
Always a forefront feature of Tarantino’s films, the music serves it’s purpose well here without going too over the top. One particular highlight is the sumptuous use of the late Jim Croce’s ‘I’ve Got a Name’, which fits perfectly in a great montage marking the beginning of Django and the bounty hunter’s fruitful partnership. The maestro Morricone also contributes an original song, after having had selections from his previous works used so perfectly in Tarantino's recent films. It’s also great to see Tarantino venturing into other legendary composer’s discographies, with some vintage Jerry Goldsmith being put to good use this time around.
In the end
When the water finally comes to the boil, there’s a wonderful, cathartic, explosion of an ending, releasing all the pent up pressure in the long-suffering Django, and providing the usual endless carnage that we have come to expect from Tarantino. Throughout it all, Django maintains a fair amount of panache, which is a welcome break from the horrors that have come before. It’s not easy viewing, and it’s not one of his best films, but it’s still one of the most accomplished films of the year.

Mark 8 out of 10

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