Django Unchained ★★★★½

There's a bit in The 'Burbs where Corey Feldman sets up a chair on his front porch and invites his date for the evening to sit next to him because he suspects that they could be in for an evening of great entertainment watching his neighbours.

If you would allow me the indulgence of comparing myself to the great Mr Feldman for just one moment, but I kind of felt like that when everyone piled into cinemas or naughtily downloaded handheld cam recordings to see Django Unchained at the time of its general release. I just sat back and watched the inevitable carnage that the mix of reactions that a new Quentin Tarantino film creates. Carnage that was only likely to be heightened as he had the nerve to not only tackle a western but to use a legendary western character and then set that western in a storyline centred around slavery. A part of me did wonder if Tarantino was trolling Spike Lee, I have to admit.

Now that most of the smoke has dissipated and the bodies have been cleared away, in swaggers this Johnny-come-lately to put forward his opinions on Django Unchained. Clear of mind and unswayed by the opinions of others, what say he on the subject of this rabble rousing new addition to a beloved genre of many decades past?

Yeah, it was really good.

I think this is Tarantino's simplest film to date. There is no piddling around with chronology, it isn't even slightly sprawling in its scope, it doesn't wrong-foot you by being an entirely different film for about the first half, and the plot isn't complex in the slightest. What this is is the ultimate show that Tarantino could have put on to exhibit that he has the utmost, unwilting confidence in his abilities and the total freedom to tell the story he wants at the pace that he wants.

It could be argued that a film as simple as this doesn't need to be nearly as long as this. It's an argument that I don't actually disagree with. However, I think back over the course of the film and I try to think of scenes or passages that could be snipped from the film to make it shorter and I honestly cannot think of any that I would want to lose.

That really is the key here. You COULD tell this story shorter but the fact is that Tarantino has made it look as though it has to be this long and it has to be epic by making almost every scene in this film entertaining or important to the resolution of this tale. It's a pretty splendid feat, actually, because although Tarantino has made long films and stories before, he has never crafted one of them around a story that has such a clear and simple beginning, middle and end.

The typical Tarantino cast is present and correct with notable actors and stars practically falling out of every scene. I wouldn't say that many of them were recognisable what with the amount of facial hair and millinery that covers their features a lot of the time, but if you squint hard enough then there were people that I have enjoyed in almost every part of this film. I must say that it is a dreadful waste of Bruce Dern to only have him in it for about a minute, though.

The self-indulgence of having to cast himself in roles in his own films is something that he refuses to cast off, though. Why would a man who so clearly grasps the necessities of precisely appropriate casting when handling such all-star casts put himself in a role of an Australian bloke? Sure, his character is only a minor one in the grand scheme of things but it's this kind of minutiae that bugs me more in his films than the bigger issues that people tend to criticise him for. I just don't understand it.

The pace of the film really is something that I admired, however, although one wonders just how much time could have been trimmed off the running time if Christoph Waltz wasn't handed so much time to deliver his lines - lines that to begin with are so wonderfully verbose and well written that even after just two high profile films you cannot imagine anyone else delivering. I'm not complaining about this at all because Waltz is absolutely wonderful once again. No, I'm not going to choose between my favourite of the two and you can't make me.

Jamie Foxx is absolutely excellent, I'm happy to report. Having had the misfortune of witnessing one of his stand-up comedy shows recently, he had a hell of a lot of work to do to erase the memories of his attempts to be funny and he more than covers his arse in that regard. As for Leonardo DiCaprio, he's come a long way since being the sprout-faced irritant of Titanic and others. I wasn't as dazzled by him as some but he is pitch perfect here, no mistake about that.

I loved the pace and Waltz but I didn't absolutely love the film as a whole. There's nothing wrong with it at all that I can see and I didn't count any major flaws. It just lacked that imperceptible something that Inglourious Basterds had that let me love that film so much. I can't figure out what it is at all, but future rewatches might spell it out for me. Or at least I hope they do. I can do without more to ponder in my life. The strange thing is that this is far less flaw-riddled than Inglourious Basterds, but those flaws were clearly hiding extra character.

Obviously the language of the film has been the main point of controversy surrounding Django Unchained. While the volume of racial slurs here is obviously larger than his previous films, I didn't feel as uncomfortable with it as I did at times in those films simply because it had a historical grounding to it. Does Tarantino exploit that to crowbar some more in? Possibly. But I don't know that for sure and the use of it certainly doesn't lessen its impact during one or two key scenes, which I think is important.

So, all in all, another very, very good film indeed from Mr Tarantino. How about a sci-fi film next, Quentin?

Steve G liked these reviews