Django Unchained

Django Unchained ★★★★

Mid-tier Tarantino, which is still good. A fun ride that builds and builds until it pops and then deflates, like a balloon, in the last 40 minutes or so. As many have noted, there seems to have been a difference in the pacing of Tarantino’s films since Sally Menke sadly passed away, it started with Django and then got more self-indulgent with Hateful 8. I have heard the same re OUATIH, will have to judge for myself when it’s released some time in the next decade in Australia.

Parts of this movie really sing though, and I enjoy mid-tier Tarantino more than I enjoy most films. It’s still unabashedly his film, his brand. What elevates Django is the cinematography, this film looks amazing, and the four central performances. Waltz seems born to deliver QT dialogue, rarely has an actor fit a director so well. Leo is looser when allowed to chew scenery and at his best when playing charismatic dickheads, and this a flamboyantly awful character, you can tell he’s having fun. This is one of my favourite SLJ performances, I love how it’s revealed that he’s truly running the show. And in the past I’ve been a bit underwhelmed by Foxx in this but he won me over on this re-watch, he has true stoic cowboy presence and knows just when and how to underplay it. Thank god it wasn’t Will Smith.

Female characters are disappointingly short-changed in this, poor Kerry Washington, but I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss QT as not being good at writing female characters, you can’t just dismiss Kill Bill, Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction (the French gf!), Inglourious Basterds. He has written some of the most recognisable and iconic female characters of the last couple of decades. It’s just not the case here.

Regarding the pacing, it ebbs and flows, some of the dialogue is a bit long-winded but it’s still entertaining and parts are genuinely funny. There is a clear point where this suddenly becomes a bit of a slog for me, about 2/3 of the way in after the first Candieland climax. I can see why the film cannot end there, even if it naturally feels like the climax- Django has to be the hero of this story, not Schultz, otherwise it becomes a white saviour story and there’s enough of them unfortunately. Django has to beat the baddie, and there’s a parallel here- Schultz has to beat Candie, Django has to beat the brains behind it all, Stephen. I like that Quentin didn’t end it there and had Foxx on his own, without Waltz at the end, but it really meanders and it looks like he didn’t know how to resolve it, got stuck and struggled to write his way out. His cameo with the rando Australian mining company is him at his most self-indulgent. Sorry QT I regret to inform you that your accent is one of the worst Australian one’s ever done, and there’s a lot to choose from. (Side note, so random to see John Jarrett in this? Before this I best knew him from presenting Better Homes and Gardens lol).

This review might sound quite critical but I do really like the movie, it’s just not my favourite of his, and re-watching Pulp Fiction after this highlighted the pacing issues. I like how Tarantino tackled this subject matter, N-words aside, and that there was some non-stylized violence the audience must endure. It’s just nice watching movies by directors that are their own genre, the style is so signature and I happen to like it. His films still feel like an event.

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