“I like the way you die boy…”
This film is f***king fantastic. You may as well not read past that point right there. Tarantino is back in style after the slightly slower and more dialogue based Inglorious Bastards and this time he really means business. From the unique characters to the soundtrack and its modern twists this film really is special. A western at heart but one that aims to make a real difference from the norm with Jamie Foxx as a black lead and Christoph Waltz as the german who see’s no point in the barriers between white and black class. DiCaprio is third on the billing as the menacing Calvin Candie and thrives in a role he may not be as used to, however, the real runaway character in this film was Samuel L. Jackson’s Stephen, a character so warped he may well be more out of control than his owner.
I’m going to briefly mention the one thing (that Tarantino fans may expect) that was a tad annoying and that was his own little cameo in the film as one of the Candie family henchmen, I wish he would just stay behind the camera where he is amazing at what he does rather than step forward in front of it with this dodgy no-quite-sure what accent that seemed too out of place in this otherwise authentic western experience.
Moving on, and back to the good stuff… The story itself is thrilling, providing many, many lines that I am sure will stick into your mind after seeing it for the first, second, third, fourth or even fifth time and won’t lose any of their original effect. Importantly it keeps the audience guessing all the way through and when it seems so obvious to be going one way it turns and faces another direction, this is done in such a way though that allows the audience to follow it all easily. There are no wasted characters here, each has their own reason to be in the film’s universe and each are used well and very effectively. The villains are evil, they are real bad people and you do end up despising them from the moment they appear on screen.
The bloody violence in the film makes the genre feel alive and vibrant and the clever use of seasons to accentuate this with bright red blood flying round the screen keeps the audience occupied while giving them something very pretty to look at. The unnecessary gore and maybe violence to some extent made this film what it is, it’s not gore that you may think ‘oooh I can’t watch’ but instead one that does the opposite, the effect is quite hard to explain but you want to see the people who are getting shot to be shot and the way it is done is so believable and realistic it feels great to watch.
Those little camera zooms are also beautiful implicated, they feel like a mixture of Tarantino’s own style as well as having been uplifted from those classic 70’s westerns just to make it fit its genre even more. Much like my review for Gangster Squad a couple of weeks ago I think the accents and the setting for the film are perfect and just add to the original impression of the film just feeling ‘right’ while you watch it.
Not a single scene is wasted which is rare you’d think in a film of this epic length but everything needs to happen and it does as a rapid speed with no waste, the story is told naturally rather than being rushed or prolonged, Tarantino clearly knew what he wanted when writing this and indeed wasted nothing and included nothing that didn’t have a need in the film while still evolving all the characters over the 3-hour runtime.
As I have already said Jackson’s Stephen character is creative to say the least. A character that makes an impression as soon as he comes on screen about half way through the film. Being black and a slave to Calvin you’d expect him to sympathise and even go as far as to help Django but instead he does the opposite and the character is well established early on as obviously having so much of this white culture (of the time) and racism stamped into him he even believes that he is white. He is maybe even more evil than Calvin but just the looks he gives and right down to the conversations he holds with Broomhilda (Washington) and Calvin his real sense of character comes through and he gets his just desserts as it were because of this despite attempting to revert back to a native culture when Django does make his heroic return.
Jamie Foxx as Django was an inspired move as it seems a risk these days to cast a younger black actor in a role that isn’t Will Smith or someone much more recognisable. I mean Foxx is recognisable but he’s not quite on that list that includes Freeman, Jackson and Smith. This is sure however to push him further now and more into that mainstream and gives him a much deserved extra boost after Ray several years ago. His character in this film is again inspired, cool and very likable. He has that modern edge but not too modern that pushes the realms of belief which was very important. You will leave this film however wishing you were Django, he is a real hero and you don’t always get that in films these days, not on that scale, heroes always seem to have their flaws these days in film so this feels fresh.
Christoph Waltz (who’s work I’m not familiar with apart from recognising him from Tarantino’s last outing) was also an inspirational twist on what you’d go in expecting, not an anti-hero and very ‘un-german’ in his ways (in popular culture terms) he gives Django that turn of events that he needed and gave him the chance of freedom and life early on. He is also solid throughout the film, and this is a film that stars the likes of DiCaprio, Jackson and Foxx all at the top of their games.
There were quite a few beautiful cinematic touches and well thought out and set up shots. I liked the ideologies challenged throughout but especially in his last escape where he is seen taking out a group of henchmen then freeing a white horse from its saddle before riding it, iconic moment in my heart there. The end sequence immediately springs to my mind as well where Django and Broomhilda are silhouetted against a white wall and seen in light. Broomhilda is also seen wearing white at this point, a freedom colour which at the same point was a complete contrast to the shadowey faceless figures of Candie Land. A nice and simple binary opposite and a real statement piece.
Lastly, the music is a bold statement, a mixture of classic western pieces you’d expect but then also the inclusion of modern tracks from artists like 2 Pac, Rick Ross and John Legend (who’s track ‘Who Did That To You?’ is one that sticks in my mind as one of the coolest scenes in Django as he rides the white horse wielding a gun). The mixture feels so good to watch and gives the film attitude as well as backing up its authenticity. It’s a real badass movie.
This is a must see film. I demand everyone see’s it because it is really really good. It is a cool film and this is down to the casting, themes and soundtrack which gel perfectly to make this a proper movie. It feels timeless and has that real iconic feel that Tarantino maybe hasn’t hit since Pulp Fiction and in years to come maybe that picture of Travolta and Jackson from Pulp Fiction will be replaced by one of Jamie Foxx when we come to think about this extraordinary director.