Django Unchained – Review and Trailer

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three-stars3

If you have been even slightly cognizant of cinema through the past couple decades, you are undoubtedly as aware of and literate in Quentin Tarantino‘s works as the rest of us are. He is a dominant voice in modern cinema, and perhaps the most closely watched and anticipated American filmmaker by the American public, not to mention those outside of the United States.

After exiting the theatre, a friend of mine commented, “Now he just has to pick another historical time and he can make a trilogy!” Whilst considering which other historical period and its dominant nemesis he could skewer (Roman occupation of Jerusalem and American occupation of Japan were two – be prepared to share royalties Mr. Tarantino!), implications of this statement seemed to become clear. The film is certainly a Tarantino film – it contains all of his characteristic style, his majestic control of the visuals and understanding of the language of cinema. However, ever since Kill Bill, his films seem to be little but blood-soaked, tongue-in-cheek genre films with absurd body counts.

This last statement will probably solidify some readers’ desires to see this film. And I encourage them to see it – it was a fun ride. But I cannot help but wonder – what happened to that Tarantino that made such daring films as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction? It seems like Tarantino has found a comfort zone which he hasn’t left in almost ten years and four films. This isn’t to say that the past four films were identical. They certainly were not. And this isn’t to say that they were all of the same quality – Inglourious Basterds was still very likely the best of all of them.

And that isn’t to say that Django was merely a fun gore-ride (although it was mostly that) – it had some elements which are noteworthy. Its brutal depiction of slavery is something shoved in your face again and again in a way that is almost never done in Hollywood cinema. It forces one to see the reality of this element of this country’s history which lies in quiet shame in the white population’s psyche, and in quiet anger in the black population’s psyche, amidst the knowledge of continuing injustice which lasts to this day. Films like this need to be made and shown to the American public. Past atrocities cannot be ignored out of shame – we must see these crimes of our past and hope to rectify them, and never commit them again in the future.

The characters as well were interesting, and the acting was great. Christoph Waltz is perhaps the most enjoyable actor to watch in today’s cinema, and Jamie Foxx is fantastic as Django. Cameos abound as well, including the director himself as an Aussie slave trader and Jonah Hill as a proto-Clansman. The cinematography is gorgeous, with some moments of Americana-scapes that are absolutely incredible. At times the flow seemed a bit uncomfortable with itself, and there is one moment that I wish could be changed (the one that ends with Christoph Waltz saying something like, “Sorry, I couldn’t help myself” – I won’t go further to avoid spoiling it); this would have made the film much more serious, and would have forced him away from an easy first finale. But that would have gone against his intention of making this a blood-soaked tongue-in-cheek genre film.

No, my criticism is more that Tarantino is an incredibly gifted filmmaker who has already made great masterworks of cinema in his early career. I wish he would let these genre pics leave his system now and focus on something truly original like his first two works, rather than continuing to pay homage to those traditions of times past. I know he has more to say than this.

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Categories: Reviews

One Comment on “Django Unchained – Review and Trailer”

  1. Adam Cuttler
    December 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    Great review. Regardless of our polarizing views on your man Krzysztof Kilowsey, when it comes to Tarantino it seems we whole heartedly agree.

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