Monday, December 31, 2012

My final film review of 2012 Django Unchained

Set in the deep south in 1858 Quentin Tarantino’a  audacious, bold and very entertaining nearly 3 hour opus is ostensibly about one of the most horrible periods in the country’s history. The story is pretty simple. A slave on his way to be sold meets up one dark and dreary night with a bounty hunter who is looking for three fugitives from the law. The bounty hunter  knows of a slave who can identify them and this turns out to be Django who he ingeniously and violently sets free. This sets the film in motion and the two join ranks and set off on a picaresque journey through the nightmare landscape that was the deep south two years before the Civil War. The slave Django very well played by a compelling and charismatic Jamie Foxx also has an agenda of his own, to find his beautiful wife who was taken from him and sold to one of the meanest slave owners in the history of mean slave owners. Django is treated with kindness and respect by the German  bounty hunter, who also has his own agenda up his sleeves  (his nationally proves important to the plot) played by Christoph Waltz who is simply fantastic and gives a rich and complex performance that even tops his Oscar winning role in “Inglorious Bastards”. On their very perilous and nerve wracking journey they meet up with lots of horrible people who are mostly white but also a few blacks. The worst of the lot (and that’s saying a lot) is the very horrible plantation owner Calvin Candie played by Leonardo DiCaprio who gives one of his best performances in a long time. He’s the linchpin of the story and lives on a spacious plantation named Candyland with his sister from hell. It is here that Django’s wife is being kept in slavery and it is here in Candyland that as the saying goes “the shit hits the fan.” Also living there is the head house slave an Uncle Tom who makes Simon Legree look like a pussycat, and is played with a terrible meanness by Samuel L Jackson made up to look old. This is a twist and a nasty one at that in the story. There is much graphic violence in the film, after all one of the themes of the film is revenge and a lot of the violence is done in a Looney Tunes cartoony way, but this doesn’t lessen the horror of it, there is also a lot of realistic  mayhem throughout, this is after all a Quentin Tarantino film, and as usual with his films might not be for everyone. There is also a lot of humor and I mean the laughing out loud kind, what my mother use to call laughing on the other side of your face.  Tarintino has always been a referential director and he brings his love of Spaghetti Westerns into this film about slavery and revenge in style, plot and music. The film is causing a lot of controversy some of it because of the generous and some might say overuse of the N word, but as ugly as the word is it was part of this culture that Tarantino is showing us, and how often do we hear teenagers today throwing this word out at each other in a matter- of- fact way. Others are wrongly calling it racist, and this is from people who have not even seen the film.  The movie  is rooted in film history,  in genre and sub- genre if you like, and I might be projecting but I could see Tarantino thinking about taking some American History and mixing it up with the sub- genre of the spaghetti western. Is it a great film? I really can’t answer that yet, I have to let it sit with me for a while but I did love it and left the theatre feeling exhilarated, that I had finally seen something this year really worthwhile by one of the great artists of contemporary cinema. One of the best films of 2012.


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