Django Unchained begins in 1858, two years before the start of the American Civil War, where we see dentist Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) trying to buy Django (Jamie Foxx) when he lies in wait for the slave, who’s walking amongst a group of them being led through the forest, but is forced to take matters into his own hands when those in charge don’t comply…
Now, I said dentist, as we’d led to believe that’s the case, since he carries a massive fake tooth on the top of his wagon, attached by a spring. Before long, however, we discover, that’s his old profession. Now, he’s a bounty hunter, killing bad guys and getting paid for it and he wants Django to team up with him. Cue lots of braindead rednecks all being shocked to see a black man roaming around, having been freed.
And so begins the road trip for the pair, starting with them looking for the three Brittle Brothers, Big John (M.C. Gainey), Lil Raj (Cooper Huckabee) and Ellis (Doc Duhame), and rescuing Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who belongs to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) after he purchased her for his house staff, while at the same time posing as men looking to buy a Mandingo fighter at an overly-inflated price.
Good things about this film:
There are a lot of great performances here, most notably from Christoph Waltz, and then Foxx, DiCaprio and Samuel L Jackson as Candie’s butler, Stephen, all of whom are very much enjoying their time in the limelight.
It’s also amusing, early on, watching Don Johnson, Jonah Hill and their Klu Klux Klan colleagues bickering between each other simply over the bags they have to wear over their heads, so as to be a part of the clan. Alas, this is a short-lived scene and I was expected more from Johnson’s appearance after his name was featured prominently in the opening credits.
And Quentin Tarantino makes great use of the full 2.35:1 Anamorphic Panavision frame, the format lending itself perfectly to that of a Western, with the curved effect occasionally in use at the edges, giving an authority to these images over those of a standard Super 35 movie, which can look very flat by comparison.
There’s fantastic scenery on view in the tradition of an old-fashioned Western, with the background music to match.
I also don’t mind the modern dialogue used in the film, although some have objected to it. Sure, they didn’t use a lot of the phrases back in the day that they do now, but it doesn’t detract from the film.
Oh, and on the occasion when Tarantino can be bothered to put one in, the blood-soaked violence is a treat. Shame there wasn’t a lot more of it, like the trailer appears to promise.
Not so good things:
Django Unchained is slow. It’s slow more often than it is well-paced starting, initially, after our hero is initially freed. Since it pepped up a bit for a while, I was hoping that was just a beginning lull, but no, apart from some occasional quips and the aforementioned violence, it spends far too long to get through certain scenes, especially in the second half, and in no way does it need to be nearly three hours long. I said the same of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Dark Knight Rises.
It’s not that I’m not a massive fan of westerns – I’ve loved Dances with Wolves and many of Eastwood’s best of the genre – but this one really does drag.
Even worse, in the last 40 minutes, it just lurches from one largely pointless scene to another as it fails to wrap anything up satisfactorily after reaching a far better ending at around the 2hr point.
Oh, and it also gets a bit tiring with Tarantino’s over-use of the n-word.
Overall, I loved Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, but Kill Bill Vol.1 and Kill Bill Vol.2 were very ‘meh’, while Death Proof was dire. Inglourious Basterds was a return to form, but sadly with Django Unchained, he’s gone off the rails again and needs a solid sure-fire smash to get him back on the rails again…
And now some more comment on this film, but I’ll wrap a spoiler tag around this…
Running time: 165 minutes
Released: January 18th 2013
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Producers: Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone and Stacey Sher
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Django: Jamie Foxx
Dr. King Schultz: Christoph Waltz
Calvin Candie: Leonardo DiCaprio
Broomhilda: Kerry Washington
Stephen: Samuel L. Jackson
Billy Crash: Walton Goggins
Leonide Moguy: Dennis Christopher
Butch Pooch/Ace Speck: James Remar
Mr. Stonesipher: David Steen
Cora: Dana Gourrier
Sheba: Nichole Galicia
Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly: Laura Cayouette
D’Artagnan: Ato Essandoh
Big Daddy: Don Johnson
Betina: Miriam F. Glover
Bar Patron: Franco Nero
Dicky Speck: James Russo
U.S. Marshall Gill Tatum: Tom Wopat
Rodney: Sammi Rotibi
Clay Donahue Fontenot
Big Fred: Escalante Lundy
Sheriff Bill Sharp: Don Stroud
Son of a Gunfighter: Russ Tamblyn
Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter: Amber Tamblyn
Old Man Carrucan: Bruce Dern
Big John Brittle: M.C. Gainey
Lil Raj Brittle: Cooper Huckabee
Ellis Brittle: Doc Duhame
Bag Head #2: Jonah Hill
Sheriff Gus (Snowy Snow): Lee Horsley
Trackers: Zoe Bell, James Parks, Tom Savini
LeQuint Dickey Mining Co. Employee: Michael Parks
LeQuint Dickey Mining Co. Employee: John Jarratt
LeQuint Dickey Mining Co. Employee: Quentin Tarantino
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.