Gary Cruise’s review published on Letterboxd:
Django Unchained is the seventh film by Quentin Tarantino and follows a freed slave who, with the help of a German bounty hunter, sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
A damn fine example of how Quentin Tarantino just gets better and better with every movie he releases, Django Unchained is yet another masterpiece from a director who just wants to share his love for little known cult movies with the world by creating his own full length tributes filled to the brim with references that some may get and some may not but it doesn’t limit any sort of enjoyment that can be found with theee movies. This movie in particular explores his love for spaghetti westerns, the Italian Django movies and the Blaxploitation movies of the 70s. Tarantino merges all of these influences and adds his own signature layer on top to create a truly marvellous piece of cinema. Essentially it’s a buddy cop movie placed in a western setting whilst dealing with a truly tragic subject matter. This lends a lot to why the movie works so well, it’s not without its oddly placed comedy elements but at the same time it never holds back when it touches on slavery in the 1800s which leads to frequent uncomfortable to watch scenes throughout. But that’s the thing with Tarantino, Death Proof aside, he’s never directed a full on horror movie yet he’s an expert on making his audience feel uneasy through horrifying historic realism which he turns on its side and portrays in his own signature Tarantino style.
Jamie Foxx is just simply phenomenal in this movie as title character Django. He makes for a fantastic and likeable lead character that I found myself so invested in from the get go. He has a ton of character development showing how he goes from being a slave to being an empowering almost hero like gunslinger and it’s so satisfying to watch. It baffles me why he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for this role that he put so much heart into. Speaking of the Oscars, Christoph Waltz won his second Tarantino role Oscar for his performance as Dr. King Schultz and rightfully so too. Waltz was excellent in the role and shared so much entertaining chemistry with Foxx throughout creating the movie’s buddy cop-sequel dynamic and making for a duo that I just wanted to see more and more of. It’s a perfect example of the versatility in Waltz’s acting, take his villainous character in Inglorious Basterds who was so fantastically yet frustratingly hateable and put him next to his thoroughly loveable character in this movie and the difference is spectacular and really does prove just how magnificent Waltz is as an actor. Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson work excellently together as this movie’s antagonist duo, Calvin and Stephen. DiCaprio plays a smug, aggressive and despicable character who is instantly unlikeable from the moment he shows up on screen whereas Jackson is the support to DiCaprio’s evil ways by trying his best to deal with Django and King by snitching on them. Their chemistry makes for a very hateable evil and psychotic duo who make a habit of presenting an uneasy feeling when they’re on screen.
This movie is by far Tarantino’s best looking movie to date; the cinematography is gorgeous. From start to finish this movie makes perfect use of its locations for numerous beautiful shots, helping create a lovely to look at stunning back drop for the hard to watch brutality that is thrown on top of it. It truly is a masterclass in filmmaking. Tarantino throws a nice looking surrounding to help create a level of unpredictability for the horrendous happenings that await the audience. There are so many expertly created moments of suspense that’s made all the more effective by the amount of well written character development provided to help us grow attached to these characters. As with all Tarantino movies, there is a high level of blood and gore used to make the violence even more jarring than it already is. One scene in particular has the best use of gore in any Tarantino movie since Kill Bill Vol. 1. I am of course talking about the shoot out scene in Calvin’s mansion. It’s perfectly paced, marvellously edited, filled with tension and suspense and of course, drenched in blood. It’s by far my favourite scene in the entire movie. The soundtrack is up there with some of Tarantino’s best. As we all know, Tarantino soundtracks are almost a complete separate entity to the movie’s themselves due to how phenomenal they all are and this movie is no exception. It takes songs by the likes of Johnny Cash, 2Pac, James Brown and John Legend as well as scores from the likes of Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Hellbenders and Under Fire, and uses them almost as an extra off screen character to move the movie along and set the tone in a very impactful way.
Overall, Django Unchained is a hard hitting piece of cinema that takes many risks and is never afraid to put it’s message across in the most graphic yet visually captivating way possible. Featuring plenty of blood and gore, beautiful cinematography, phenomenal cast performances and a soundtrack to die for, this truly is Tarantino at his best.
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