Django Unchained… Great, but not quite Awesome

Dj2Why is Chritoph Waltz nominated for best supporting actor. Isn’t he the lead actor? Isn’t he the most noticeable presence in Django? Isn’t he the one that makes Django a finer film than it is?

Django Unchained starts with the freeing up of Django (Jamie Fox) by Schultz (Waltz), goes on to explain what Schultz is doing, and the eventual Django-Schultz relationship that leads them to the search of Broomhilda, Django’s wife sold as a slave to Calvin Candie (Leonardo Dicaprio). Stephens (Samuel Jackson), the slaver/butler of Candie spoils the party for Django, but Django does get unchained.

At its heart, Django Unchained is the story of a freed slave searching for his wife with the help of a bounty hunter, its a stark take on the slave-master relationship, a western style movie. Like most other Quentin Tarantino movies, the devil in the details is what you come to admire. Scenes full of great screen chemistry and extremely intelligent dialogues, a brilliant screenplay, and some over-the-top but exhilarating performances. DJ3
Does it work this time? The style, the blood and gore, the flourishes, the slow sunsets, and the larger than their surrounding pivotal characters of the movie are all there. Yet, the movie does not measure up to what fans like me have come to expect of QT. Or, rather, it measures up, but does not surpass the standards that have already been set. The movie keeps you glued, but not in the way Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds or Kill Bill does. For the QT haters, the movie might be an argument why he is over-hyped.

Waltz’s Schultz owns the movie, even though he is stylistically not very different from Col. Landa of Inglorious. But his charisma supercedes everything else in the movie. Jamie Foxx’s Django is good. Again. But not so good that you remember him long after it’s over. I personally did not like Dicaprio as much here. To the extent that I found his style and intonation inconsistent over the movie. In a rather short role, Samuel Jackson is stand out brilliant (what’s new about that one, you may ask). The slave who cDJ4annot imagine a slave being a free man and being accorded the respect of a free man, his sharp eye that catches the details (like the one of a good butler), and his unwavering loyalty to Candie. In fact, the two people/ characters you remember and think about long after the movie are Schultz and Stephen. Tarantino makes a guest appearance as well and blows himself up. I guess he was having a blast making this one!

Dj1There are three specific scenes that I loved – the first scene where Waltz comes in on a cart looking for Django, the scene where Django and Schultz are having a heart to heart conversation and the deal is struck, and the scene where Django and Schultz meet Candie the first time. Oh and you can add the scene of negotiation that happens later as well. Supremely well crafted scenes.

The most awesome thing about the movie, however, is the soundtrack. Sheer brilliance. It’s western. Its inspired. And its thematic. There are several points in the movie where the soundtrack takes the movie to a different level altogether. It starts in a very The Good, The Bad and The Ugly way, but has the texture of a war film, and the tempo of a period drama.

Tarantino fans – You are going to watch it anyway. Lets again have cerebral debates about every scene. But do tell me if you think its in the expected league or not, honestly and without fanboyism.

This is a clear 4 on 5. I am not yet at decimal points, but otherwise its not quite a 4.5, but higher than 4 movie ;)

And yeah, the D is silent.

About Amit Das
Conventional, boring, believer, poet, Shayar (to be precise), lover of music, musical instruments, and all that can be called music (theoretically or metaphorically), jack of all master of none, more of a reader less of a writer, arbit philosopher, foolish debater.. and many more such things.. like so many people!

5 Responses to Django Unchained… Great, but not quite Awesome

  1. Estela Burch says:

    Ultimately, Tarantino tries to sell the tale of a seditious slave avenging the injury white slave owners caused to enslaved blacks, on the way to rescuing his beloved wife. But this attempt fails, if not horribly, at times. In fact, there is so much more to be desired in the film from the standpoint of black heroism than there are moments of true liberation within the context of chattel slavery. Sure, Django gets his gal and kills a lot of white people in the process, but the movie tries to depict the agony slavery caused through the edited spectacle of a spaghetti western; which could be tolerable from a creative point-of-view, but comes off disrespectful being that it deals with an era that’s yet to be portrayed sensibly (without the satiric quirks) by mainstream Hollywood.

  2. Jamie says:

    I Like your thoughts on Django. Christoph Waltz was just briliant. He is a rare diamond that flourished in Inglorious Basterds and I’m glad that Tarantino decided to work with him again. I think the reason he is nominated for supporting role is because in this movie only Django is the main protagonist. Though it is a shame – he deserves a lead. Maybe next time?

    • Amit says:

      A friend and I were discussing, and he hated the softening of Dr. Schultz towards the end. His view – QT just loves Waltz. :) So, maybe, next time, he will be the protagonist

  3. Aparna says:

    I haven’t commented much, but it has been great to catch up on movie reviews on your blog :). I have such a bad track record in the last few years, this sure inspires me to watch at least a few of these flicks!

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