Django Unchained

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I’m late to this film, I admit it. When it was released, the trailers and the buzz turned me off; I’ve never been a fan of Westerns (spaghetti or otherwise). And it was Tarantino, who is brilliant when he is on and, well not when he isn’t. I was worried that after Inglorious Basterds he couldn’t deliver again.

My concern was unjustified. From the moment the old Columbia logo graces the screen and the title song rings out, you are being set up for a skewed take on a classic genre. And, in grand Tarantino fashion, he starts off with a few great gouts of blood and gore. These displays are rapidly put on the sidelines and held in reserve for later. He returns to the exploding balloons of blood only for the heightened moments of revenge and survival on the part of Django.

Despite some minor issues, without question Django is Tarantino’s best film to date. Period. It has all the elements, in front of and behind the scenes. While we can debate whether the script was worth its Oscar, Waltz certainly deserved his, easily besting Jones’ efforts in Lincoln. What the final film achieves is a wonder of dark humor, social commentary, and violence. Even more, it builds tension such that by the time you arrive at the climactic, cathartic, quintessential Tarantino finale, you are drooling for it and are fully sated when the last body falls. As a gift, he even sets up that finale himself with a cameo and nod to Blazing Saddles (intentional or not).

I have only two minor gripes with what he did as a film maker… first, he just can’t pass up the chance to shower people and settings in blood in the most spectacular ways. Much like HBO nudity, it doesn’t always add to the value of the story. I will acknowledge that, with this movie, he at least attempts to use the absurdly over-the-top carnage with a purpose. The one point of proof I have for the assertion is that the most grotesque and disturbing of the deaths in the story is filmed sparingly and with a great deal of reality. It grounds that moment and makes it stand out in a way that it needs to in order to provide us with the finale. Second, the music choices. I don’t mind music that is in counterpoint to action, but anachronistic music (rap, for example) that suddenly breaks in to an otherwise period piece is disruptive. Amusing, maybe, but it didn’t really serve the story for me. Others may disagree.

As the second part of his alternate history trilogy (part 3 yet to come), Tarantino has a heck of an act to top. But who thought he (or Waltz, for that matter) could outdo the wonderfully evil and fun Inglorious Basterds, as part one?

Django will entertain, thrill, and disturb you, but it shouldn’t be missed.

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