Friday, 18 January 2013

Django Unchained, dir/wr. Quentin Tarantino, st. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson

Compared against that other Oscar-studded study on slavery Lincoln, Quentin Tarantino's seventh film as writer/director seems pulpier than usual. Given his fondness for the Western and all its associative manners one can see liberally strewn in his back catalogue, from stand-offs to Morricone, it was surely only a matter of time before he made his own. Django Unchained (the "D" remember, is silent), puts Jamie Foxx in the role of a slave, liberated from bondage by the bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) in order to track and kill the next marks on his list. The two form a mutually beneficial partnership; Django will partner with Schultz for the Winter and then Schultz will help Django track down Django's wife Broomhilda (Washington), being held by wealthy plantation owner Calvin J. Candie (DiCaprio). The first half is as gleefully trashy as one would hope. In Waltz, Tarantino has found one in a handful of actors who's able to turn his smug-smart prose into deliverable poetry. These first scenes are among the best, with Schultz managing to out-smart, draw and philosophise those who stand in his way. The introduction of Candie in the film's second half would really have been a chance to raise it up a notch, to give Schultz a villain worthy of his superheroism, but DiCaprio never grapples with the language with any real perception of Tarantino's bullet-time wordsmithery. He may have told Krishnan Guru-Murthy (just prior to having his butt shut down) that he reckoned he was in the sweet-spot performance-wise, but Django Unchained feels more like a side-step than the exhilarating breakout it might have been.