Django Unchained

Django Unchained ★★★★

It´s no secret that Quentin Tarantino is a huge Western fan and that you can see the influence of this genre in many of his movies. So, it was only a matter of time until he would direct his first own pure Western film. Well ok, since it is Quentin Tarantino we are talking about, “Django Unchained” is of course not a “pure” Western film, but a wild and hyper-stylish genre mix of classical Western, epic love story, and extremely brutal and bloody revenge flick. It´s also the director´s second “alternative history” film after “Inglourious Basterds” and he once again uses the medium film to exact revenge on historical villains (this time white slaveowners instead of Nazis) in a very satisfying way. He uses this approach again in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (with the Manson family as the villains), which is why I kind of see these movies as a trilogy.

The film is as distinctively Tarantino as it gets and features most of the director´s famous trademarks: The movie homages and references, violence, profanity, excellent choice and use of music (this time clearly inspired by Ennio Morricone), stunning cinematography and production design, witty, quotable, and highly engaging dialogue, dark humor, and the overall “stylish” storytelling and craftmanship. Tarantino fans definitely get what they love.

Other highlights of every Tarantino movie are of course the perfect casting and stellar performances. Jamie Foxx has such as natural badass aura that makes him perfect for the lead role, but the standout and most enjoyable character for me is, once again, Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz. Some argue that his second Oscar win is undeserved, because his role is too similar to Hans Landa, but to that I say three things. 1. At the Oscars, you don´t compete against your previous roles. 2. I think it´s quite a difference if you play the personification of evil or a compassionate and likeable antihero. Just because both characters are witty and eloquent doesn´t make them the same role. 3. Hey, why change it if it works. Tarantino´s dialogue and direction + Waltz´s delivery and charisma = cinematic bliss. I could listen to Dr. Schultz talk for hours.

That said, Leonardo Di Caprio also deserved a nomination for his performance as the racist slaveowner Calvin Candie. His intensity and screen presence are amazing and the scene where he cuts his hand and just continues acting is legendary. And Samuel L. Jackson is never better utilized than in a Tarantino flick.

Spoilers in the next paragraph

Still, I feel the length of the film. Especially after my two favorite characters of the movie, Schultz and Candie, die, when there are still over 30 minutes of runtime left, I always think: “Ok, now they can hurry up and come to an end.” I never think this while watching “Inglourious Basterds”, “Kill Bill”, or “Pulp Fiction”. I find the climax cool but not as strong as it could be and while there are many great moments, I think that “Django Unchained” has fewer truly iconic standout scenes than Tarantino´s best films. But of course, that´s just my subjective opinion.

End of spoilers

All in all, “Django Unchained” is another highly entertaining, stylish, and brilliantly crafted Tarantino flick. It´s not among my favorite movies of his, but this only shows how impressive his filmography is.

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