Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Film Review - Django Unchained

Set in 1858 Quentin Tarantino continues his march into the past in pursuit of the perfect revenge film.

In new territory and 60 years prior to his previously chronologically oldest film Inglorious Basterds Tarantino without the aid of his usual pulp cultural references to fuel his dialogue has to use other methods to fuel the void.  He does so through the character of Dr. King Schultz played by new Tarantino regular (Christoph Waltz) who played the Nazi Colonel investigator in Basterds.  Shultz tells literary stories such as old German fairy tales and provides the history of words and phrases to fill in the spots where one would have expected a pop reference speech.

The film opens with a chain gang of recently purchased slaves marching through Texas led by two slave traders. They are met by Shultz who it appears that has wondered onto the group by mistake but we soon lean that he is here for one particular slave that can identify his next three targets the Brittle brothers. Shultz takes measures to obtain Django's (Jamie Foxx) freedom and a partnership is formed between the two men.

The two spend the winter in the mountains hunting wanted men for reward and Shultz pledges after he learns that Django is married, his wife was named Broomhilda by a German and can speak the language to travel to Mississippi with Django to free his bride.

Tarantino gets the setting for his western right.  The first small town that the pair ride into is pinpoint authentic even capturing the difference of the responsibilities of between the local sheriff and the Marshal. The two main plantation sets in the film also serve to bring the viewer right in to the 1850's.

The soundtrack mixes old school songs, spaghetti western cuts and new songs for the film which is a first for a Tarantino film.  The original 1966 title song from the film Django is used as the title track to the film to serve as the opening credit sequence that is key to a spaghetti western.  As the song starts the view knows that they are at a Spaghetti Western and a Tarantino film. Eno Maraconi is featured throughout as drops during scenes to add the Spaghetti Western feel. Dr. King Shultz has a theme song His Name is King. The film features a lot of Louis Bacalov's original score to the 66' Django. James Brown's payback also appears in a mash up with a Tu Pac unreleased track Untouchable called Unchained  Another Key song Jim Croche's I Got A Name plays as Django now a trained and properly outfitted bounty hunter checks out his new saddle and clothes before the two head out on the road their next destination. One of the original pieces is a rap track by Rick Ross called 100 black coffins that included a spaghetti western whistle. A last piece that needs to be mentioned is John Legends original song Who Did That to You that he sent to Quentin especially for the film the song specifically discusses  revenge on those who wronged a man's woman.

Once the pair determine that Broomhilda is at the Candieland plantation run by Calvin Candie (Leo DiCaprio). They need a plan to gain entrance to the estate.  They decide to pose as Mandingo Fight-trainers to purchase a fighter from Candie's stable for an exorbitant amount of money.  It's at Candiland where the second half of the film takes place.

All the Tarantino elements are here in this film outstanding dialogue, action by the main characters to upset the local attitudes of the day, bad language, extreme violence and excellent performances by the actors.  DiCaprio is great as the overly polite but sadistic plantation owner Candie and will garner recognition during award season along with Waltz's portrayal of Dr. Shultz King. Foxx is solid as the title character. Look for Samuel L. Jackson one of the original Tarantino players as a way over the top loyal head of the household slave named Stephen that Django takes particular time to dispatch when he gets his chance towards the end of the the film. Django is a film that I highly recommend.

**** out of 4

Django Unchained | Quentin Tarantino | U.S.A. | 2012 | 165 Min.

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