Saturday, January 12, 2013

Django Unchained review; a worthy Oscar candidate

Best Picture.  Best Original Screenplay.  Best Supporting Actor.  These are three of the major Academy Awards categories.  And guess what?  Django Unchained has been nominated in all of them.  Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed the western about a bounty hunter that saves a slave, only to have him become his partner.  It's a tale of American History, as well as revenge.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Performances
Christoph Waltz plays the bounty hunter I mentioned above.  He won his first Academy Award acting in Tarantino's last film, Inglorious Basterds.  Waltz is magnificent in this film.  The way he spouts off his dialogue just draws you in.  He is charming, even though he kills for money.  You can't help but fall in love with his character.  When he 'buys' Django, only to free him, it shows his human side.  Terrific.

The other performance that stood out was that of Leonardo Dicaprio.  He plays a plantation owner in Mississippi.  He.  Is.  Ruthless.  Dicaprio plays him with all the entitlement in the world; just the way the character would have been in the late 1800's.  Many felt the actor was snubbed for Oscar contention; and after seeing the film, I can't help but agree.

Jaime Foxx plays the titular character.  I was surprised Tarantino didn't write more for the actor.  Foxx can act with his eyes alone, but the best dialogue was reserved for Waltz.  I enjoyed Foxx' performance and believed his quest for revenge.  It was amazing watching him transform from a shy slave, to bonafide badass at the end of the film.  I loved his character's growth.

Kerry Washington plays Django's wife, and the reason for the new appointed bounty hunter's quest.  She is beautiful and a great actress, but had little to work with here.  She mostly screams.  Samuel L. Jackson reconnects with Tarantino and plays a great character.  He is a life-long servant of Dicaprio's character, and has completely forgotten where he came from.  He treats his fellow black slaves as if he owned the plantation; and that made for a very interesting dynamic.  Jackson is great.  Playing up the servant role when he needed to, and quickly turning it off when he needed to match Dicaprio wit for wit.  The acting in this movie was superb.

Tarantino has a style of writing his movies in a way that definitely borrows from the past, but you just know it's him.  Much like Inglorious Basterds, he borrows from real history, but puts his Tarantino spin on it.  The way he crafts Django's story is seriously impressive.  I've said this before, and I'll say it again; in my opinion, the Best Original Screenplay category is the most difficult Oscar category to win.  To create, from scratch: the world, the characters, the story, the backgrounds.  I mean this take an imagination that very few people have.

Then take that screenplay and translate it onscreen into an entertaining story.  His direction is top notch in the film.  His choice of music is fantastic (Tupac playing in the background of a gun fight anyone?).  The editing is tight and the long run time flies.  Awesome.  Just awesome.

What I didn't like:
The Second Act
This is petty in comparison to the rest of the film, but I want to point it out.  Django Unchained felt like two movies, or two halves.  It didn't feel like there were three acts.  It felt like a first 'half', and a much longer second half.  The first half matches up Waltz and Foxx.  They begin a partnership and go on numerous bounties.  Then, with very little transition, we move to Dicaprio's plantation to save the Kerry Washington character.  It would have been nice if the second half of the film was structured a little bit tighter, into two separate acts.  If you've seen the film, let me know if you noticed this.

The Verdict:
Worth the Attention it's Receiving
I really enjoyed the film.  Much more than I thought I would.  In fact, this is the first Tarantino film I see in theaters.  While I own all of his films on DVD/Blu-Ray, I rarely shell out the cash to see his movies in theaters.  This was definitely worth the money.  It was entertaining and forces us to pay attention.  Tarantino may be a better writer than he is director.  But anyway you spin it, this was a terrific film.  Go see it before the Oscars, you won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The first hour of Django Unchained is where it is at its strongest. Where it is played out as a buddy western with a pretty simple objective and fun dialogue between Jamie Foxx and the great Christoph Waltz, but by the second hour, it gets even better and darker. Great review Tony.