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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Django Unchained: The best western in a long long time.....

Let's talk Django Unchained - I had high hopes for this movie which Tarantino's been talking up in one way or another ever since he burst onto the scene with Res Dogs and Pulp Fiction. In fact his idea for a spaghetti western type movie was originally supposed to go into production after Jackie Brown, but what with one thing and another we had to wait until now for Tarantino's spin on both the Euro and American westerns traditions.


Was the wait worth it?

I'd say it was and Django Unchained is, no doubt at all, one of the best westerns in decades - it is a far better movie that the Coen's take on True Grit, superior even to the excellent Blackthorn and you know I'm undecided if this actually tops the Eastwood Oscar winner, The Unforgiven. It's unfair to compare the two movies really since Eastwood's movie is much more serious in tone and even although Django Unchained contains some deeply serious elements, slavery for one thing, it is much more stylistic and often borders on comedy in places. The scene where the Klu Klux Klan argue about their hoods not allowing them to see depicts them as inbred idiots,and the audience are applauding when Schultz blows them to pieces and Django takes down their leader with a long range rifle.

I really do feel that Django Unchained may be the best western since The Outlaw Josey Wales - you've got to go that far back to find something comparable in the genre.

The film's provoked some outrage for daring to use slavery as a plot point and over its liberal use of the word, "Nigger". Spike Lee claims the film should be boycotted but Lee, as always, is missing the point. Slavery is shown to be the abhorrent practice it was, and surely is is the duty of anyone tackling the subject is to depict the way the blacks were actually treated. Sugarcoating all this would be an insult to history and I applaud Tarantino for this movie.

"We all intellectually 'know' the brutality and inhumanity of slavery. But after you do the research it's no longer intellectual any more, no longer just historical record – you feel it in your bones. It makes you angry, and want to do something … I'm here to tell you, that however bad things get in the movie, a lot worse shit actually happened." Quentin Tarantino

In the Oscar nominations the movie's been nominated for best picture, original screenplay and best supporting actor for Christoph Waltz.And although I feel the movie may be too controversial a choice to walk away with Best Picture it certainly deserves to win the award - it's the best film I've seen this year, far superior to Lincoln which is the favorite to win the Best Picture Award. And if you want to put Django among the blockbusters, where Tarantino often belongs, then its pisses all over Skyfall, Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers.

Right from the start the movie is typical Tarantino when we get the message flashed up on screen - made with the friendly participation of Franco Nero (the original Django turns up for a knowing cameo which may make little sense to anyone who hasn't seen the original movie) and then we find we are in 1858, Somewhere in Texas. We are introdued to Django, a slave, who is being led on a chain with several other slaves. Enter King Schultz, a kind of quick draw German dentist turned bounty hunter. Right away we are into a shoot out that could have come from a classic western but tinged with some Tarantinoesque blood spraying across the screen. The scenes ends with Django now owned by Schultz but Schultz hates slavery and promises Django his freedom if he will help him track down the men he is looking for.

Schultz is a magnificent character, as is Django and just about every other main character in the movie. Leonardo DeCaprio is magnificent as the evil slaver, Max Candie and Samuel L. Jackson is outstanding as the self-loathing slave Stephen who betrays his race and seems to have sold his soul for a life of privilege within the Candie household.

The film ticks all the western boxes and we have a great winter section where the American landscapes are used to evoke classic scenes from westerns long past. And of course all the Tarantino elements are present and correct and I, for my own choice, would say this is Tarnatino's best film, better even than the excellent Pulp Fiction.

The soundtrack is also quite superb with not only the original Django theme used but also the music from the first of the Trinity westerns. One scene where Django,looking impossibly cool, takes on all comers in a shoot out while Tupac plays out over the soundtrack is a perfect example of how Tarantino merges the visuals with the music to create dazzling slices of cinema.


The film owes little to the original Django movie although it does use the slavery elements from Django II which was the only official sequel to the Django series. The spaghetti western Unchained owes the most to is to my mind, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - the movie is of a similar length and is structured in a similar way. Mind you I'm glad Tarantino didn't go in for all those lingering Leone style shots, which would have quickly become tiring and instead he's concentrated on everything that makes the western genre so good.

The film is violent, tragic, exciting, incredibly stylish and even funny in places but above all it is a proper movie from a proper movie-maker.


Django Unchained - an exceptional western that opens in the UK 18th Jan 2013 and is already on general release in the US.

Don't miss this one.

6 comments:

Troy D. Smith said...

I agree wholeheartedly.

Monty said...

Blimey,high praise indeed! I'm off to see this, which will be the first QT film I've seen at the cinema. I'm generally not a fan of his, although I loved Pulp Fiction; this does sound good though - thanks for the review.

Oscar said...

Thanks for the review. I'll be seeing it before long.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...


Let me know what you thought guys - a truly great film.

Rayzer Sharpie said...

Saw a trail for this a while back. Got it on my 'to see' list.
Just watched 'Sons Of Katie Elder' if you're interested.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Rayzer Katie Elder is a classic Wayne movie. Will be interested to know what you think of Django Unchained when you get to see it.