15:00 Wednesday 30 January 2013

Tarantino Western proves a winner



Cert 18, 165 mins, out now.

Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo Di Caprio, Samuel L Jackson, Don Johnson and Kerry Washington.

Director Quentin Tarantino

Rating – 4/5


WESTERN’S have never been a favourite film genre of mine and if I’m honest Quentin Tarantino is a director whose work has largely gone over my head.

So to say I went in to the screening of Django Unchained with expectations set to low would be an understatement and on finding out the film was more than two-and-a-half hours long, it is fair to say my state of mind going in was not the best.

After an hour though I could safely say that I was rather enjoying a Quentin Tarantino Western.

A witty and fast-flowing script is usually a given when it comes to Tarantino as there is no doubting his talent as a screenwriter, and he is on sparkling form with Django.

The film tells the story of a slave called Django (Foxx) in 1858 America who is freed by German dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr King Schultz, played by the majestic Tarantino discovery Christoph Waltz.

In return for helping him track down his latest bounty, Schultz offers Django the chance to find his wife Broomhilda (Washington) who has been bought to work as a slave at a cotton plantation run by the evil Calvin Candie (Di Caprio).

The opening scene of the film in which Schultz frees Django from his owners is one of the funniest openings to a film in recent memory and starts a cracking first hour where Waltz walked away with the movie as he delivered with deft comic timing some fantastically sharp Tarantino dialogue.

Foxx held his own though playing the much straighter character of Django and the pair displayed real chemistry in the firecracker first hour.

The film felt like it sagged slightly in the second hour as Tarantino put the comedy on the back burner somewhat to introduce the more dramatic side of the story.

He pulled few punches in showing some of the daily horrors slaves were subjected to with one scene particularly harrowing and a difficult watch.

It is at this point that Di Caprio’s villainous Candie was introduced and he showed his true acting talent taking on a role which he has never tackled before with great aplomb. An almost unrecognisable Samuel L Jackson also arrived in the story as Candie’s long-serving head house-slave Stephen and managed to make the viewer both laugh and feel quite unsettled in what surely should have been an Oscar-nominated supporting performance.

The end, when it finally comes after numerous false dawns, was a typically bloody Tarantino finish not for the faint-hearted.

There are a few minor quibbles, for example the female characters were very much in the background, with Washington largely only required to cry and scream.

Also Quentin Tarantino’s fondness for a cameo in front of the camera sees him don a quite horrendous Australian accent.

However, with another great soundtrack to boot, overall Django Unchained provided an enjoyable, if slightly long night at the cinema.


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