Monday, 8 December 2014

Django Unchained

This is a Tarantino film so suspension of belief in a rational world is required from the outset. Once achieved, you can sit back and enjoy this movie knowing that there will be blood and exploding body parts and a script where the least likely twist is the one that will be used to advance the narrative and where impossible odds will always become not just possible but odds-on do-able. I enjoyed this film - a lot.

For me Quentin Tarantino is the best story-teller making films these days and at 2:45 it's a long story - but it doesn't drag. It's 12 Years a Slave meets spaghetti western with a killer soundtrack and great acting. The lighting palette is ever changing and always adding to the visual creativity. Some scenes were lit with directional lighting from either above or below which gives a strong visual key to the intended relative moral merit of the characters in the scene.

Tarantino's Oscar winning screenplay is pure genius which at times slides into (Monty) Pythonesque farce. Bodies with limbs hacked off refuse to lie down and die. Blood spurts cover the walls and there is shooting with such accuracy that individual and specific body parts are targeted with apparent ease and deadliness. The fantasy nature of the physical violence is echoed in the violence of slavery as it is portrayed in the film. It is presented in a way that invites the viewer to reflect, perhaps in a new way, on what it means to violate another human being. The dialogue is always clever, witty and pays homage to so many different films and characterisations. It is a joy.

The story itself is as unbelievable as any other part of the film but it is carried  by the actors with such sensitivity and strength that it completely draws you in and it becomes totally convincing. Fully deserving of the Oscar, Christoph Waltz is mesmerising as Dr King Schultz as he goes into partnership with Jamie Foxx's Django. Leonardo DiCaprio as plantation owner Calvin Candie and Samuel L Jackson's Stephen are also extremely strong performances.

The story is set in 1858 just before the American Civil War and slavery remains central to the narrative throughout the film. The genius of the screenplay is that it is the comparatively liberal and inclusive outlook of the European (German) Schultz that provides the impetus that drives the story. As a Bounty Hunter Schultz embodies an unlikely mix of characteristics including generosity, fidelity and humour but it is the way Waltz is able to blend these with the more expected cunning and ruthlessness that make the character so endearing.

As you may have gathered, I really enjoyed this and would commend it to you - as long as you are able to wade through pools of blood and dismembered body parts. It is as stimulating as it is enjoyable and the story manages the difficult balancing act of never quite revealing if natural justice will win or whether the status quo will prevail. I'll give it 9/10.

1 comment:

Doug said...

A much desired return to form after the mess of Inglorious Basterds - for me this is the best of Tarantino's work. Hitherto I'd always preferred the Tarantino film he didn't make! (True Romance)

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