rior to seeing Django Unchained
, another critic and I tried to rank Quentin Tarantino's movies. It was tough. In my opinion, with the exception of Jackie Brown
, he's produced an A-quality film with every single one. Picking a best was hard but trying to determine where this fell into the shuffle was even harder. I understand that his style of filmmaking isn't for everyone but, without a doubt, he is one of the best movie makers of all time and he's just delivered another masterpiece.
Jamie Foxx stars as the titular character which was a hard pill to swallow for me. I'm not a fan of his but I'm also the first to admit that the man is talented and successful at almost everything he attempts. His character may be the star but blends in with the set pieces when he's surrounded by what's around him. What got me more excited was the rest of the cast which has Christoph Waltz (Inglorius Basterds, Carnage) returning from his Oscar-winning performance under Tarantino before. There is also Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson both of which have never won an Oscar shockingly. One of them will, I repeat WILL, walk away from Oscar night with a golden statue because they'll be up against each other. All three of these performers give career highlights but especially Jackson and DiCaprio as horrendously slimey and cruel villains that they look like they enjoyed tramendously being. Waltz is also fantastic as a good guy this time around because Tarantino's words flow from his lips as if he's performing Shakespeare.
The premise of the movie is a white bounty hunter aquires the help of a slave he frees to locate and kill some wanted criminals. To reward him for his help, he aids Django, the slave, in traveling the Antebellum South looking at plantations for his wife. It's easy to write this off as another Tarantino revenge flick but it's so much more than that. As always, Tarantino makes a film in a genre he loves and respects while unraveling it in a style that is obviously his. In the case of Django Unchained it's the Spaghetti Western, which is a sub-genre that came out in the '60s and were violent, melodramatic western adventures made by Italians.
Django Unchained is Tarantino's funniest film on record but that's part of the problem. The subject matter is one that I'm not entirely sure should be funny. Now, I'm one person who thinks that comedy can and should be found in the darkest of places. The brutal treatment of slaves in the south is ripe for the picking if done carefully, which it is since most of the humor comes at the expensive of the white slave owners by depicting them (accurately, I'm sure) as halfwits and rednecks. (One of the funniest scenes in any movie this year is found in Django Unchained where a group of Klan members are discussing how they can't see out of their hoods.) What I'm referring to is the drastic shift from comedy to disturbing violence that lies in the movie. Be warned that this is Tarantino's most violent film to date and that's a tough title to grab.
The film runs a half hour too long but who are any of us to tell Tarantino when he's had enough? You'll feel completely exhausted by the time the movie reaches its blood-soaked finale but just like all of his others, I'm sure this will get better and better upon multiple views. If I were to have that conversation with that critic about ranking his films after seeing this, I'm still not sure where I'd put it. It's in the Top 4 though and completely worth a watch. Even if you have to cover your eyes during some of the bloodshed, the performances from those previously mentioned are enough to make you feel like you got your money's worth.
Django Unchained (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A