UK Release Date: 18th January 2013
Runtime: 165 minutes
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L Jackson
Synopsis: An enigmatic European bounty hunter frees a black slave in America’s deep south to help with a hit on the promise he will gain the freedom of the slave’s wife.
Quentin Tarantino’s new film is always an event. There’s a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation around a Tarantino film that doesn’t seem to surround any other filmmaker. Thus, Django Unchained has been topping lists of most anticipated films for many months now and it is finally bringing its symphony of black comedy and blood-soaked gunplay to UK cinemas.
This is Tarantino so at home and in control that it’s frankly beautiful. Django Unchained is every inch a Tarantino film, bursting with wisecracks, ridiculous sprays of arterial fluid and, of course, his controversially liberal usage of a certain racial epithet. Unusually, the latter is entirely justifiable given the backdrop of slavery. Spike Lee will bitch and moan, of course, but Tarantino is never one to shy away from the harsh realities of his subject matter.
This is his cleverest script in years, combining hard-hitting scenes of slavery with breath-taking wit. The direction is hugely accomplished, with Tarantino’s flair for directing shootouts and violence coming in especially useful. When he himself appears on screen during the third act, it’s cringeworthy, but forgivable given what he has achieved with the rest of the movie.
He is aided by the fact that every actor in the film is at the absolute top of their game. Christoph Waltz blusters in with charm, charisma and just the right amount of malice. He blusters out with a Golden Globe under his arm with an Oscar potentially to join it. By his side, Jamie Foxx is beautifully understated, but gets some of Django Unchained’s best lines. Samuel L Jackson plays arguably the most morally murky character Tarantino has ever written and carries it off as only Jackson can. No-one swears quite like him.
Special praise for Django Unchained though must sit with Leonardo DiCaprio. His turn as Calvin Candie is balanced perfectly between charm and calculated menace. He embodies the role perfectly and manages to carry off his character’s shocking racism in a way that makes him chillingly believable. His performance becomes especially powerful during one scene where DiCaprio smashes an ashtray with his hand and causes a real-life gash to his hand. Does he stop? No, DiCaprio continues to act the hell out of a long, intense sequence as blood covers his hand. That’s acting.
It’s unusual that a film can sit at almost three hours and never feel long, but aided by a fast-paced plot, stunning performances, a great script, jaw-dropping cinematography and one of the finest scores of the last few years, Django Unchained manages it. If there is a flaw, it’s that the film seems to end, but then tacks on a half hour epilogue. However, this epilogue proves to be one of the most entertaining segments of the film – once Tarantino is back behind the camera – and so it certainly didn’t dent the quality.
Django Unchained is a masterpiece and feels like a very personal project for the great auteur behind it. It isn’t just Django Unchained… it’s Tarantino Unchained.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.