Django Unchained is not particularly historically accurate (although you didn’t really need me to tell you that did you?) but it’s set in the late 1800’s, two years before the American Civil War. We’re introduced to our two main characters, Jamie Foxx who plays Django (the D is silent…) and Christoph Waltz playing German bounty hunter Dr King Schultz. Django knows the identities of some bounties that Schultz is tracking, and they some how come to an agreement that Schultz is going to help Django rescue his wife from a particularly nasty and well-known plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) in exchange for his help.
Firstly let’s address some of the reasons why Django lost my interest, despite being a long-term, self-confessed lover of all things Tarrantino. Firstly, it is way too long. Too too long. At nearly three hours, the story simply does not fill the time it’s been given. And sometimes I do think it’s in the best interest of directors to be limited by production companies, for example, The Social Network originally was much more lengthy. Fincher was told to cut the running time, and he did. He asked the actors to recite their lines quicker, two birds with one stone were killed here. Firstly the running time was appropriate for the content but also added another frantic quality to the film. So why Tarrantino was allowed to make Django the length it is I do not know. The story is spread to thinly, scenes of dialogue too long and complex as well as being sometimes incomprehensible because of accents and dialect.
There are also some gaping plot holes which maybe I’ve missed or misunderstood, but here I go! One of the main plot holes I don’t get is why Schultz is willing to risk his profession as a bounty hunter to rescue a woman he knows nothing about for a man he’s only just met? He doesn’t appear to have any immediate family, or an emotional history, ruling out the sympathy explanation. I almost feel like it was a strange notion of the single white man helping the poor slave black man whom everyone else treats like dirt, which to me is too simplistic. I was expecting much more from a Tarrantino movie, considering it’s virtually rammed down our throats the specificities of the time period Django is set. Are we really supposed to believe that one man is going against the norm of society without any real reason? Revolutionary ways of thinking and behaving normally have to be backed up by reasons. It’s not like Schultz condemns slavery, freeing every slave he sees, he just helps Django. The only reason offered is that Django can identify some bounties Schultz is after, which to me is not enough to warrant the plan to rescue his wife.
As well as some smaller plot holes, why is Django so good with guns, why does Samuel L Jackson’s character act like a jackass, why on earth does he look like he’s been blacked up (he’s already black, but he’s been made up to look like a caricature of a black person?) the biggest plot hole for me is the friction between Django, Schultz and Candie. I’m not too sure (again I may have missed it) but there seems to be a lot of hush hush and secrecy around getting Django’s wife back when there really didn’t need to be. They were always going to strike a deal (they were going to leave before the deal was finalised) and they were always going to ask him for Django’s wife. So why did it explode the way it did?
One of my biggest problems is that it is clear that the German references, Schultz’s German nationality, Django’s wife being able to speak German was a plot element to purely justify the casting of Christoph Waltz, which knowing Tarrantino and his fetishisation of particular actors, spoils the suspension of disbelief of the film. It’s not to say it’s impossible to have German characters in the time period, but it’s obvious why they are there.
Having said all that, Django unchained is somewhat a rough gem. Well maybe not a gem… But there are elements of pure brilliance, the mob at the beginning going after Schultz and Django discussing the failings of the eye-holes in their hoods is exceptionally funny. The acting talent on display is exceptional. Jamie Foxx, known more for his action roles, takes a serious turn as Django, hell bent on reuniting with his lost wife. And Leonardo DiCaprio is absolutely spectacular as Candie, he is a terrifying, cocksure, confident monster who watches black men fight for fun and sets dogs on ‘disobedient slaves’. And it goes without saying that in typical Tarrantino fashion, the soundtrack is astonishingly good and the scenes of borderless violence are a spectacle (albeit for the less squeamish amongst audiences).
I particularly liked the genre references, the title cards and credits hark back to the golden age of Western films. And the music compliments these references perfectly. Western films started their lives in Spain as spaghetti westerns. And this is probably the most frustrating element of Django Unchained, as it serves as a reminder that Tarrantino is a man who knows his films. He has a real passion for cinema and is usually so expert as transferring his vision to screen. Maybe Django Unchained happened on a bad day?
I felt a little short-changed by Django, after reading all the hype I was really looking forward to it, but unfortunately the final product doesn’t impress and is easily one of Tarrantino’s poorest films. Too long, too many filler scenes, not enough of what we expect from Tarrantino who is probably this generations coolest filmmakers.
And for those of you who are interested my ranking of Tarrantino films…
- Reservoir Dogs
- Jackie Brown
- Kill Bill Vol 1
- Pulp Fiction
- Inglourious Basterds
- Kill Bill Vol 2
- Django Unchained
(P.S I haven’t seen Deathproof or Grindhouse so not appropriate for me to rank them!!)
- Django Unchained (review) (everything2.com)
- Django Unchained (2012) (whatshouldthenameofthisthingbe.wordpress.com)
- Django Unchained (2012) – Film Review (jpatreviews.wordpress.com)
- Django Unchained (absurditys.wordpress.com)
- Film Review: Django Unchained (martinmuserichmond.wordpress.com)
- Movie Review: DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) (blankpagebeatdown.com)
- ‘Django Unchained’: A Postracial Epic? (3quarksdaily.com)
- Django Unchained (printplayparticipate.wordpress.com)
- Django Unchained (cinemaesce.wordpress.com)
- Django Unchained or Django Unhinged? (roblog18.wordpress.com)