Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Django Unchained

Over the past few weeks, I caught several of the hot movies of the season but didn't get around to reviewing them.  In the course of the next week or so, I aim to catch up.

Simply because it is alphabetically first, I'm starting with Quentin Tarantino's slavery-focused western, Django Unchained.

The first roughly sixty percent of this 165-minute-long film is an odd sort of buddy tale, the story of dentist-turned-bounty-hunter Dr. King Schultz and former-slave-turned-bounty-hunter Django Freeman.  Though plenty violent, this story adds to Tarantino's usual staples of snappy dialog and strong hits of violence a touching human story that made me think Tarantino had developed new depth.  Jamie Foxx turns in an excellent performance, but the real star of this part of the movie is Christoph Waltz, who is completely engrossing and who owns the screen whenever he's on it.

Once the duo set out to rescue Django's slave wife, Broomhilda, from the evil plantation and slave owner Calvin Candie, Leonardo DiCaprio in a full-on scenery chewing mode, the movie changes to a much slower pace and a much darker tone.  It confronts the horror of slavery more directly, which is a good thing, but it also ultimately surrenders much of its seriousness to Tarantino's obsession with bloody violence.  Now, I'm all for a good bloody violent movie, but here the violence often feels over the top for no good reason and to no real effect.  Tarantino's own death in the film--he plays a mining company employee taking several slaves to work in a mine where they will most certainly die--is a perfect example of his inability to resist piling on silly violence: he dies in a spectacular explosion from being shot in a saddlebag of dynamite he was holding. 

That said, I ultimately enjoyed the movie, and I believe it's worth paying to see in a theater. I just wish the second chunk could have been as good as the first. 

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