Friday, December 28, 2012

Man on Film: Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino is at his best when working in a man's world. His missteps (regardless of severity) occur when having his inherently masculine dialogue heavily funneled through female voices. It is through no fault of the females cast that these films are flawed; Tarantino simply doesn't write well in the female voice.

In Django Unchained, Tarantino is back walking through a man's world with men spouting his dialogue.

And it is superb.

The premise--freed-slave bounty hunter turns the Deep South at the end of antebellum upside-down with his German partner to free his wife--sets the stage for a deliciously bloody spectacle that Tarantino excels in--it was his panache in both the areas of hyper-stylized banter and over-the-top violence that arguably redirected the course of American cinema in the 1990s.

Using the superb Christoph Waltz, who is extremely likely to be getting at least another Best Supporting Actor nomination, and fellow Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, Tarantino has a pair whose cause is extremely easy to rally behind. Hell, Waltz was charismatic and likable as the bad guy in Inglourious Basterds. Here, their tête-à-tête is so effective and engaging that the 165 minute run-time flies by, never once letting the film feel long. Waltz is fucking fantastic, and Foxx fills the shoes of badass bounty hunter with a quiet but sure swagger.

In support, or more appropriately opposition, the adversarial cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Don Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Walton Goggins play up their roles with aplomb. With the rest of the slew of racists being cast and directed for the purpose of hilarity, Django Unchained is cast impeccably well.

Just as importantly, Django Unchained is blessed with a near-perfect script, and Tarantino's eye for the traditions of the genre (loosely, the Spaghetti Western) in relation to the mise-en-scene make for a fantastic film--probably his best since Pulp Fiction. It is a whole lot of fun, gleeful in its destruction and righteous in the vengeance exacted and bounties hunted. It also manages to deal with the subject of slavery in a manner that highlights the atrocities of the slave trade while not taking a Spielbergian heavy-handed preacher's tack. The slave traders and owners are mostly slaughtered, and rightfully so, but it still plays like an extremely violent Spaghetti Western, proving to be a disarmingly effective approach to addressing the issue.

All in all, it is hard to muster up anything negative to say about the film. Even with its length, Django Unchained is one of the most fun films of the year, consistently rewarding from beginning to end.


WordyG said...

The comic relief was funny, but it seemed out of place. The whole "mandingo" backdrop made me think about college athletics. Things have definitely gotten more civilized and sophisticated, but lots of exploitation still happening. Good movie, good review. I'm not a huge Tarantino fan, but I'm glad Hollywood is still big enough to allow a few auteurs.

Josh Duggan said...

I'm definitely much less in Tarantino's camp than I was as a young man. I suppose those things are just bound to change.

ATSchwitters said...

I think the music (not the score) was distracting and out of touch. Its not that I have a problem with modern music in a historical setting, its just that the songs QT chose were terrible. And yes, QT cannot write female voices at all. At least, in this film, he didn't try to much.

Otherwise, I thought it was excellent. I loved the Frank Nero and QT cameos, and I thought the pacing was stellar.

Josh Duggan said...

I really love how divisive the pacing seems to be. Some have no problems. Some are incensed. I didn't have a problem with the music for the most part. I think with QT I just expect him to show of his record collection in every film. I did like the Croce, and it was reminiscent in tone of B.J. Thomas in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

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