What’s up, Internet Fans?
So, last night, me and my fiance (and before you go all Grammar Nazi on me, just bear in mind that I didn’t grow up speaking English) went out and saw the latest Quentin Tarantino movie, Django Unchained. Now, the short review is this: if you like Tarantino’s movie style, like visceral violence (and somewhat over-the-top), with all kinds of insanity, well executed in a film that is very well paced and fleshed out, go out and watch it now. DO IT! NAO!
As for the actual first-impressions (by first impressions, I mean having only seen the movie once thus far) review, click the “Read More” link now. DO IT! NAO!
Okay, so first off, let me state that I’m quite the fan of Quentin Tarantino’s style of making movies: extreme violence that’s highly stylized, and unafraid to push the boundaries of not only creativity (forcing the rest of Hollywood to rethink their useless remakes, reboots, and sequels-milking-money-cow approach with almost every movie he makes) but also what you can show on screen (violence-wise) outside of a horror movie context.
Let’s start with the story (spoilers, tons of them), courtesy of Wikipedia because I’m lazy:
In 1858, several male slaves are being transported across Texas by the Speck brothers. In their group is Django, who was separated from his wife Broomhilda when they were sold to different buyers at a slave auction. The Speck brothers encounter Dr. King Schultz, a German dentist and, unbeknownst to them, bounty hunter. Schultz frees Django and kills one of the Speck brothers, leaving the other to be killed by the now-free slaves. Schultz reveals that he sought out Django to aid him in identifying the Brittle brothers, a trio of ruthless killers working for a plantation owner. Schultz confesses that his bounty hunting profession is opportunistic, but emphasizes to Django that he “despises slavery”. The two come to an agreement: in exchange for helping locate the Brittle brothers, Schultz will free Django from slavery and give him $75 and a horse. After hunting down and killing the Brittle brothers, Schultz takes Django on as his associate in bounty hunting. Django is initially uneasy about his newfound role, but soon proves himself to be talented.
After collecting a number of bounties, Schultz and Django confirm that Broomhilda’s current owner is Calvin Candie, a charming but brutal plantation owner. At Candie’s plantation, Candyland, some of his male slaves are trained to fight to the death in a sport known as “Mandingo fighting”. After securing an invitation to Candyland, Schultz and Django devise a plan to reach Broomhilda by posing as potential purchasers of Mandingo fighters. Upon their arrival, Schultz introduces Django as a free man. At Candyland, Candie orders a runaway slave’s execution by being torn apart by attack dogs.
Candie and Schultz come to an agreement to purchase a Mandingo fighter. Schultz also offers to purchase Broomhilda, claiming that he noticed that she speaks German and she would help alleviate his nostalgia for his mother tongue. Schultz and Django’s interest in Broomhilda raises the suspicions of Candie’s staunch head slave, Stephen. He correctly deduces that Django and Broomhilda know each other, and that the Mandingo sale is a ruse. He informs Candie, who, armed with this information, demands $12,000 for Broomhilda, threatening to kill her if they decline. Schultz agrees to purchase Broomhilda at this price. Enraged by Candie’s behavior, including the execution of a runaway slave by dogs on Candie’s orders, Schultz kills Candie after the paperwork finalizing the sale is completed, but Schultz is shot and killed in turn by Candie’s men. Django shoots some of Candie’s men in the household, but surrenders when Stephen threatens to order Broomhilda’s death. As punishment, Stephen suggests Django to be sent to a coal mine and worked to death, and Candie’s sister Lara agrees. En route to the mine, Django convinces the slave drivers that he is a bounty hunter, showing them the handbill from his first kill as proof. Once freed, he kills the slave drivers, takes their dynamite, and rides back to Candyland.
Returning to the plantation, Django discovers Schultz’s body and takes the certificate of freedom that Candie signed for Broomhilda as part of the purchase agreement before his death. Django enters the unoccupied Candyland mansion and plants the dynamite. When the residents return from Candie’s funeral, he kills the gunmen and Lara, frees the house slaves except for Stephen who he shoots in the knees, and lights the dynamite’s fuse. Django rides away with Broomhilda, leaving the wounded Stephen to die in the explosion.
Well, the Wikipedia description of the plot does leave out some of the more juicy tidbits, but nothing that would otherwise change the plot. Now, here’s the thing: I’m a huge fan of brutal violence if not excessive and is done well (case in point, The Raid: Redemption). What I’m not such a huge fan of was the copious amounts of the “N-word”, but then again, the movie was meant to explore a much darker time in American history where such a word was commonplace (just because something is common, doesn’t make it right, but I digress). But, I have to say, the movie is very well-placed, and Tarantino’s pull-no-punches style was very prominent throughout the film itself. Every scene had its place, every character was fleshed out instead of just random faceless cannon fodder, and the dialogue was absolutely superb. And the movie was long, goodness it was long, nearly three hours, but it was still very enjoyable.
However, the movie (as per usual with Tarantino’s style) actually does more than just entertain. Remember how I said that Tarantino (and others like him such as Robert Rodriguez and Eli Roth) likes to push boundaries? Well, Django Unchained also explores America’s dark past relative to slavery. It also addresses racism even in the modern context to a degree. That’s the thing I like most about Tarantino’s style: whether he does it on purpose or not, his movies almost always makes you think, and not just about the simple stuff, but also deep or controversial topics.
Anyways, back to the movie review, or rather, my first impression of it from having seen it once. Jamie Foxx performed very well, and though he didn’t speak like the stereotypical slave of the time spoke, it was still a stellar performance that fit the movie and the other characters extremely well. And throughout most of the movie, as the character Django, he starts off as this somewhat intimidated and introverted individual, and his character progresses into becoming a much more confident quick-draw spaghetti-western-style gunfighter and bounty hunter, and you see the progression very nicely. In short Jamie Foxx’s performance was very good. And Christoph Waltz. I loved him in Inglourious Basterds, and he’s awesome again in Django. Waltz has this charismatic aura about him, and does well as a character that’s very witty and who’s good at banter (few actors fall into this category for me, the only other notable example is Ryan Reynolds IMO). His dialogue in the movie is absolutely superb. He speaks German, French, and English in the movie, and the lines he used were delivered flawlessly. Not to mention that he’s also quite a good action actor, as he’s able to fire the movie guns without flinching (something a gun nut like me will almost immediately notice in most action movies. You’d be surprised how many actors can’t properly fire a gun on-screen). The character is almost immediately likeable from beginning to end, and upon the killing of Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character), you have this satisfaction that you don’t get often from watching a movie.
Speaking of Leo DiCaprio, his performance as the primary antagonist of the movie was also top-notch. He does a good southern accent, and knows how to play the charming villain, from both a more civilized calm standpoint, as well as the more crazy tyrannical villain you’d love to hate, and does so not only with gusto, but in a way that actually makes sense and is fitting of the character. And Karry Washington (Broomhilda), though her screen-time was limited, she used it to her advantage to remind the viewer of what the ultimate goal of Django was (to find and save his wife, Broomhilda). And then there’s Samuel L. Jackson. Now, Jackson is no stranger to Tarantino’s work, as they’ve worked together many times in the past. This time was no exception. The thing is, this wasn’t Jackson’s best role. He played a submissive butt-kissing slave named Stephen in the movie, one who seemed more cowardly and less action-y. Now, I understand actors diversifying their roles, but this role just didn’t sit with me as I saw it did not fit Samuel L. Jackson’s normal repertoire. Granted, it wasn’t bad, don’t get it twisted, but it’s not his best role. It may have been better to cast him somewhere else.
Now onto the structure. It’s got Tarantino’s distinct style that I can’t really put into words. On one hand, it’s similar to a DJ, where he samples previous works, and uses them to create something completely different and new. But, his signature stylized violence is still there, all gritty and visceral and sometimes painful to watch (but that’s violence for you). There isn’t much more that I can say. Tarantino always does something different in every movie, but he does it so well that you know it’s there, you just couldn’t point out what exactly Tarantino did as new. The entire movie kept you on the edge of your seat, even in the slower scenes, possible due to the fact that every scene is so well done, that the worst scene in the movie would be on the same level as the best scene in any other current movie. From beginning to end, it was one heck of a thrill ride, but one that wasn’t too fast or too slow, with proper pacing and ramping up and down between action, drama, and dialogue. It’s just well structured. I can’t really tell you exactly why, it just…is.
Here’s an interesting, but not surprising, tidbit: the movie was filmed anamorphic on 35mm film. This is interesting because recently, filmmakers have been filming in digital (such as the Red brand of film cameras) as digital is easier to manage than film reels. But, I’m not talking about practicality, I’m talking about style. See, Tarantino’s original intent was to make a spaghetti-western style movie, and whenever you see text, it feels exactly like that. The film does have that western feel to it from the lighting and the use 35mm film. It looks and feels different than movies filmed in digital, and just adds more to the feel of the movie. The tones that are more neutral still appear neutral, but feel like there’s life in it. And though you can’t see every possible detail, the details you do see are well integrated into each scene and character. It really does help to immerse you even more into the movie, even though it’s a fairly simple step to take (digital vs 35mm film). Well done, Tarantino, well done.
The musical score also helped with the feel of the movie. It had an eclectic mix of original songs made just fore the movie, and they sound exactly like they would fit in such a western. But that’s not the interesting part. What’s actually surprising is how modern-day hip hop (such as Rick Ross’ 100 Black Coffins, even though I’m not a fan) was well integrated into the movie without taking away from its feel. Yet again, it’s well done, and lends well to the movie. Just how does that Tarantino do it? I gotta take some pages from his book. The mix is well balanced, and the gun sounds, though generic (I mean, they’re gun sounds) are rarely ever startling (such as in the movie Safe House with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds) and mixed into the audio channels very well. The balance is there, and you know it, and it’s good.
All in all, aside from the excessive language and some rather disturbing nudity (which was minimal, for no more than a few seconds), the movie was rather enjoyable and stylistic. It was what I came to expect coming from Tarantino, and more, and it did not fail to impress. It used different methods than current movie generations in the making of the film, which adds even more to the charm. The dialogue is very well done, the pacing is just right, it’s clever, intelligent, and though it’s very cliche in some ways and not much in other ways, Tarantino takes them and blows them out of the water, ultimately delivering in yet another charming, but quirky, gritty action movie and is another great original movie in an industry otherwise dominated by pointless and senseless adaptions of books, remakes, reboots, rehashes, re-whatevers that are mindless dribble and somewhat of an insult to my intelligence.
So, until next time, Internet Fans. I’m 1st Lieutenant Phantom, don’t call me sir! One, Lima, Tango, Over, OUT!
- Movie Review: Django Unchained (teatimewiththemadartist.com)
- Django Unchained (2012) (chadwickhsaxelid.typepad.com)
- Django Unchained (2012) (canadiancinephile.com)
- Review: Django Unchained – Seattle Post Intelligencer (blog) (seattlepi.com)
- Review: DJANGO UNCHAINED (jamesdmccallister.wordpress.com)
- Movie review: Is “Django Unchained” Tarantino’s great American movie? (denverpost.com)
- REVIEW: Tarantino’s Django Unchained A Bloody But Bloated Affair (movieline.com)
- Django Unchained Movie Review (shockya.com)
- Django Unchained (abagond.wordpress.com)
- B’s Review: Django Unchained (hypethemovies.wordpress.com)