By Hannah Farrugia (Manchester, UK)

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A brilliant on-screen relationship between DiCaprio and Jackson was the highlight of the film.

 

Something Missing?

Quentin Tarantino is infamous for his bold, stylistic and energetic films that mish-mash genres and play around with traditional film conventions – Django Unchained was no exception. Set in the heart of the Deep South during a time of slavery and racial inequality he tells the unbelievable story of a slave’s journey to reunite with his wife with just a hint of revenge against brutal slave owners. A promising premise indeed and very entertaining however is it as gripping and fascinating as say Kill Bill or Inglorious Basterds? I am not sure.

The film starts off promising, within the first five minutes the brilliant Christoph Waltz appears as dentist turned bounty hunter Dr King Scholtz speaking in that eloquent polite Tarantino language which makes characters so instantly likeable. He frees Django (Jamie Foxx) in order to take him on his journey to find three men who wronged Django and his wife. There is a nice student teacher relationship set up here and Foxx displays a lovely childlike quality in much of his interaction with Waltz, however Foxx’s performance seems to come fourth in the other lead males in this film.

The most engaging scenes for me were those with Leonardo DiCaprio. Although playing a racist, violent and extravagant slave owner there was something about the charisma, energy and flamboyance which made me wish to have seen more of Calvin Candie even to point where I was disappointed he was shot despite him deserving it. Even more engaging was the interaction between Dicaprio and his head-slave Stephen played by Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson took an almost bumbling old fool approach but with a sinister side obviously proud of his position and not scared of intimidating the other slaves. In a way the relationship mirrored that of Django and Dr King Scholtz but with a different slant on it: Candie being a spoilt little child and Stephen being a doting but wise teacher looking out for Candie. It was these scenes that struck me most and the commitment and playfulness from both actors was comical and even bitterly touching at times.

What was disappointing to me was once perhaps the two most eccentric and interesting characters were killed off (Candie and Scholtz) the film seem to lack that almost twinkle in the eye I am so used to in Tarantino films. After the first shot is fired at Candie there was almost this wave of shoot outs that went on and on and seemed possibly just violence for violence sake? There of course was something very cool and action-hero like about Django in these scenes however unlike in Kill Bill, where the long scenes of violent rampage are beautifully choreographed with a samurai sword these scenes seemed tedious. Perhaps Tarantino was attempting to mirror more closely his treasured western films? I’m afraid for me I would have preferred to see more witty banter.

Overall however the film was entertaining and exciting. It retained some of the famous conventions which make Tarantino great; in particular the bold use of music and dark humour. The characters (perhaps with exception with Broomhilda played by Kerry Washington who had very few lines and little to do but scream) were intriguing and quirky sparking my interest and attention and the overall style though rather flashy was adventurous and exciting.

What I think was missing and what would have brought it up to the standards of Tarantino’s previous work was some sort of twist or trick in the plot to keep me engaged amongst all the obvious violence. Perhaps waiting for that was the root of my disappointment.

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