Set in the South two years before the Civil War, Django Unchained follows a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Schultz seeks out the South’s most wanted criminals with Django by his side. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda, the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago. Django and Schultz’s search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie, the proprietor of “Candyland,” an infamous plantation.
The last Quentin Tarantino film we saw in cinemas was in 2009 with ‘Inglourious Basterds’, prior to that of course Tarantino was the man behind ‘Reservoir Dogs’, ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Kill Bill’ just to name a few. Tarantino is undoubtedly one of the most influential filmmakers of the modern age, with films now spanning over twenty years.
For his latest project, Tarantino delved into a western setting and brings with him an impressive eye for detail to all aspects of his filmmaking. The writing behind ‘Django’ comes as articulate and dense as we’ve come to expect from a Tarantino film, never rushing through a scene unnecessarily with events unfolding at a leisurely place but always with details relevant to the wider film.
‘Django’ effectively walks a strong balancing act between focusing on its characters and their various relationships against the setting upon which the film is set. The slave trade of the 19th century is central to the film’s tale and Tarantino is the perfect filmmaker to explore it. With his usual uncompromised style of storytelling there is little held back as truly horrific acts are both depicted and implied throughout the film while portraying the cruelty of slavery, and the extremism of its supporters.
To the films credit however despite this heavy handed and graphic approach to the settings it’s not at the expense of the story or the characters. Each element is handled in such a way that successfully complements the rest of the production and without being gratuitous, manages to evoke an emotional response from the audience. Surprisingly there also a comedic/witty element to the film that manages to add some laughs to things without detracting from the serious nature of the events at hand.
Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz display a brilliant chemistry creating a believable friendship on screen full of a quiet emotional drama and tender humour while still remaining strong in their separate roles. Leonardo DiCaprio simply goes from strength to strength at the moment by delivering another standout performance of his career and Samuel L. Jackson a well-known Tarantino staple by this point gives another memorable performance.
Storytelling and characters aside the film rounds itself out with entertaining yet both bloody and violent action sequences spread fairly evenly from the beginning to end of the film. Much of the action is sprung on the audience with little expectation adding to it a surprise shock element that keeps things feeling spontaneous.
While so much of the Tarantino attitude is prevalent in this film, you might notice some of the familiar tropes are either missing or have been toned down slightly, the pulpy quick zooms are alive and well though the overall narrative and chronology of events lacks just some of the flair that is so strong in some of his previous works.
Where ‘Django Unchained’ sits against the other entries in Taratino’s filmography will likely come down to personal preference of settings, actors, and directing style. While not my favourite I still loved Tarantino’s latest, it is without a doubt an excellent and entertaining film and one not to be missed by fans.
I’m giving ‘Django Unchained’ eight out of ten stars, it will be released in cinemas around Australia on Thursday 24th January 2013.