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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Jamie Foxx
Kerry Washington
Leonardo DiCaprio
Walton Goggins
Christoph Waltz
Samuel L. Jackson
Don Johnson.
Directors
Quentin Tarantino.
Screenwriters
Quentin Tarantino.
Running Time
165 minutes

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Django Unchained
Once upon a time in the South


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Plot
In 1858, bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) frees a slave named Django (Foxx) to help him track down three outlaw brothers. The pair partner up, then conspire to rescue Django’s wife (Washington) from a plantation owner (DiCaprio).


Review
Django Unchained
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Any new Quentin Tarantino release is an event. Like his latest protagonist, Tarantino is a filmmaker Unchained (although, to be fair, he was never really Chained to begin with). He has never exhibited any agenda beyond revelling in a seemingly boundless love of cult cinema and sharing that with an audience whom he never patronises by assuming they know less than he does. So, for good (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds) or ill (Four Rooms, Death Proof), his movies, however wide their scope, always come unhampered by studio fussiness and unvarnished by new trends: digital, CGI, 3D — IMAX, even. For a man credited with tearing up the rulebook, he is staunchly traditional.

And to see him tackle that most traditional of American cinematic genres, the Western, makes Django Unchained a double-event. The importance of the Western, so rich with mythic power, to America’s very sense of itself is not to be underestimated. Inglourious Basterds was a riot, outrageously rewriting the history of the Second World War to the tune of its own filmic re-presentation during Tarantino’s formative years. But Django Unchained digs deeper, into even more thematically fecund soil.

Just as it was a thrill for late ’60s counterculture kids to see it ploughed into Spaghetti by European maestro Sergio Leone and those who followed (not least that other Sergio, Corbucci, director of the original Django), there has been understandable anticipation for QT’s own spin.

Yet, strictly speaking, Django Unchained isn’t a Western. Tarantino himself has said, if anything, it should be tagged a ‘Southern’. Its events predate the Civil War by a few years, whereas most Westerns squat between that devastating conflict’s conclusion and the dawn of the 20th century. (When, not coincidentally, cinema itself was born.) They also occur far from the rugged frontier of American myth, with half the movie pinned to a single Mississippi plantation — a locale of faux-aristocratic if sinister elegance, rather than the slop and dust of the prairie cattle-trail or timber-clad frontier camps. Tin star-sporting sheriffs do feature, but are given almost comedically short shrift. Native Americans and border- bothering banditos are notably absent.

So, ‘Southern’ it is. Or rather, ‘Spaghetti Southern’. For, while Tarantino has skirted the Western’s customary historic home, he has still embraced the style of the two Sergios and their contemporary emulators, from the operatic grandeur of the score (Ennio Morricone composed a piece for Django Unchained) to the oozy, lurid scarlet fountains that cascade gorily with every gunfight.

It is also, interestingly, very much a fairy tale; more so, in fact, than myth. For the first time, Tarantino plays it linear (although there are degraded-stock flashbacks) and portrays a single character’s journey. There are no shifts in perspective, no chopping up of the chronology, no chapter separations. It is, essentially, a straightforward ‘rescue the princess’ quest, heightened by being located amid the Old World-pining feudal system of the Southern aristocracy.

The script even spells it out. Having relieved laconic slave Django (Jamie Foxx) of his irons, German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (a hirsute, dapper Christoph Waltz) is astonished to learn that, not only is his new partner married, but also his wife (Kerry Washington) is named Broomhilda von Shaft. Over a campfire, he tells Django of her namesake, Broomhilda of German legend: how she is abducted by a dragon and taken to the top of a mountain where she is surrounded by hellfire. It is then up to hero Siegfried, explains King, to make the perilous journey to rescue her. And Django, he says, is “a real, live Siegfried”. Thus Django has his own hellfire to contend with, and there is a dragon to battle.

Speaking of which, one of Django Unchained’s most exquisite pleasures is Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie, the owner of grand plantation Candie Land. Although he does not breathe fire so much as hot air. When considering DiCaprio for the role, Tarantino reimagined Candie as a “petulant boy emperor”. It is a role the actor plays to hateful perfection: a spiteful, brown-toothed bully, avaricious, vain and prone to flattery, whose sometimes unctuous civility is merely froth bobbing atop dark, poisonous waters. There is always the sharp threat of violence when he is on screen, something Tarantino hones during a dinner-table sequence which comes close to matching the German-bar scene in Inglourious Basterds.

DiCaprio forms a superbly nefarious double act with Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, the head house-slave: white-haired and rickety, eye-bulgingly apoplectic at the sight of Django on horseback, disgusted at the idea of a “nigger” being allowed to stay “in the big house”. And Waltz is also excellent, as accomplished playing a hero for Tarantino as he was as the villainous Hans Landa in Basterds — despite residing at the opposite end of the moral spectrum, Dr. King is just as brilliantly verbose.

Sadly, the weak link (ironically) is Jamie Foxx. The man has physical presence, that is undeniable, and as Django he certainly looks the part. Yet he never feels entirely right as the gritty, gunslinging hero — or rather, sounds right. Foxx is gifted with a lilty, soft, musical voice, but it jars against Django’s terse deliveries. “I like the way you die, boy,” should be a grit-spat humdinger of a zinger. But with Foxx it falls like a feather.

There are other problems, too. Tarantino’s penchant for black comedy and hyperreal, sometimes cartoonish violence runs up against his bold decision to depict the horrors of slavery head on: the lashings, the terror of the “hot box” and, in one bone-chillingly nasty scene, the pugilistic atrocity of a Mandingo fight. This, of course, is all part of Django’s story, and utterly relevant. But it doesn’t sit comfortably next to those more ‘Tarantino’ elements or his brand of Spaghettification.

Django Unchained is also, frankly, just too damn long. Or rather, its story is just too damn short for the running time (which pushes three hours). There is nothing inherently bad about long running times, and one of Tarantino’s strengths is the way he’s unafraid to let a scene run and run, his reams of dialogue unfurling in luxuriously unhurried fashion. But that tendency is here at its least tempered. Django could easily have moved faster without at all harming the quality. It could have taken even more of a lead from its Italian-Western inspirations and more often cut to the chase, and the action. To quote Tuco in Leone’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”


Verdict
Another strong, sparky and bloody entry in the QT canon. Although, creaking under its running time, it’s not quite as uproariously entertaining as his last pseudo-historical adventure, Inglourious Basterds.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Django Unchained
Empire Star Rating

RE: It was great until...

sure the word mutha fucker wasnt banded about so much in those times either ... More

Posted by CRUNT at 15:57, 05 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: It was great until...

L: chris wootton Tarantino showed up.. absolutely killed it in it's tracks for me. I liked Jamie Foxx and thought that Jackson was actually the weak link yeah that wasnt good ... More

Posted by CRUNT at 15:57, 05 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: QT's best since Pulp Fiction

fk all racist about this, apart from the whole film. cos it was set in those there times. got a bit fed up of Tarantino but was quite surprised by his lack of bullshit dialogue in this ... More

Posted by CRUNT at 15:56, 05 February 2013 | Report This Post


QT's best since Pulp Fiction

I'm a huge fan of westerns and Tarantino, so to say I was excited about this is a bit of an understatement. However, I wasn't expecting it to be better than Inglourious Basterds so...wow. First of all, the cast is incredible. Christoph Waltz is amazing (who would expect anything less?), Jackson gives his best performance in years, Walton Goggins is unforgettable in a colourful supporting role and Jamie Foxx was very good in the lead role; I have to disagree with Empire on that one although t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 13:25, 05 February 2013 | Report This Post


FOUR STARS SUCCESS.....

DICAPRIO/WALTZ ARE THE STARS OF THE SHOW HERE.....KERRY WASHINGTON'S CHARACTER UNDERDEVELOPED, DEFINITELY.... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chrisdagnall at 17:45, 03 February 2013 | Report This Post


It was great until...

Tarantino showed up.. absolutely killed it in it's tracks for me. I liked Jamie Foxx and thought that Jackson was actually the weak link ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chris wootton at 11:47, 01 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Oh you silver tongued devil you

L: Coyleone I really don't understand the complaints about it being too long. It's brilliantly paced and moves so quickly it's pretty insane considering it is quite long. I've seen 90 minute films that actually felt longer when watching them. I also wouldn't agree with the complaint that it gets deflated after the shoot out (which was amazing), because after the slight blip with the QT scene, from the point he escaped and rode off on the horse with that John Legend track playing, ... More

Posted by Proudfoot at 22:22, 30 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Oh you silver tongued devil you

I really don't understand the complaints about it being too long. It's brilliantly paced and moves so quickly it's pretty insane considering it is quite long. I've seen 90 minute films that actually felt longer when watching them. I also wouldn't agree with the complaint that it gets deflated after the shoot out (which was amazing), because after the slight blip with the QT scene, from the point he escaped and rode off on the horse with that John Legend track playing, up until he rescued h... More

Posted by Coyleone at 20:56, 30 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: JANGO

Not enough gore? Did you see the same film as I did? ... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 13:22, 30 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: JANGO

L: SarahBanks195 I liked the film but I don't know if it is his best film... don't think it was his best film either, for one there's just not enough gore and the violence and blood splatter were quite pulled back in comparison to Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds. Also strangely enough, which many people have probably pointed it out in the previous pages, the 'leading' female character (Brynhildr) has no character development or a background history like we see in many of Quenti... More

Posted by Arriflex at 13:15, 30 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: JANGO

Scene with the handshake dilemma was where the movie should have been done in my opinion. What follows is way too violent (where do all these people with guns come from?) and there are at least two deus ex machina too many in my opinion. Up until then it was probably my favorite Tarantino since Pulp Fictio, but ends up being not quite classics like the Kill Bills and Basterds. 8/10 ... More

Posted by Jasper_29 at 11:39, 29 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: JANGO

I liked the film but I don't know if it is his best film, as I know everyone is saying its amazing eg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrNW4EZV6Sw and its hard to get the Guardian to like many films but I think it could have been for the fact I'm not a big fan of Jamie Foxx, and I just found he performance quite weak in comparison of Christoph Waltz and Leo Di Caprio. But overall the film I would say it 4 stars out of 5 ... More

Posted by SarahBanks195 at 10:43, 28 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: JANGO

OK first post ever on here and I have to say this movie is flat out fun, it is a riot, love the story line, especially seeing it right after Lincoln (which was hard to stay awake through (not bashing the movie)). I dont understand how people dont think jamie fox did a good job, I feel it was seemingly natural for him, I couldnt imagine the role being played better. Foxx's acting seemed subtle at times and loved the minimal dialogue, I think foxx's acting really made the movie solid. I do not... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by perceptivemystery at 07:44, 28 January 2013 | Report This Post


Fuck me, it's a nigger on a horse

Probably my favourite QT film to date and the minutes flew by. Surprised at any critical comments about the length. The casting was perfect (except maybe for a dodgy Australian towards the end!) and it captured a terrible time in history. Yes there were plenty of light moments but underneath it was a theme of misery against which QT plays out his hero on a quest theme. Very good indeed. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 20:29, 27 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Django Unchained

This is the shortest long film I've ever seen. Even the second time it still feels like it's 80 minutes long. ... More

Posted by Proudfoot at 13:56, 27 January 2013 | Report This Post


Django Unchained

'Django Unchained ' is neither an independent revision of history nor a successful revival of western spaghetti. It's another Tarantino effigy playing with comic book violence.The imprecise conversations interfere with spasms of gore & graphic cruelty, frames referring pop culture, visual wits - all of the signature obsessions of Tarantino are on full and florid display here. Drawing inspirations from 'Django' & "Mondingo" -spaghetti cults of the 60's , 'Django Unchained' is a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ajm1991 at 15:08, 25 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Oh you silver tongued devil you

L: MOTH I quite liked the mix of music in it. I like to think of it as an Unchained Medley. rimshot* ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 14:23, 25 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Oh you silver tongued devil you

L: Don_a_van L: MonsterCat I would say that Jackson has played a lot of roles that basically require him to play off recognizable Jackson tropes, but I disagree that's he has done throughout his career. Rgirvan listed some pretty good examples there. idn't say ALL his roles were similiar, just the huge majority. Come on, there are countless jokes about how "Jackson-like" most of his perfermances are, all over the internet and if it's on the internet then it must be tr... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 14:18, 25 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Oh you silver tongued devil you

I quite liked the mix of music in it. I like to think of it as an Unchained Medley. ... More

Posted by MOTH at 14:15, 25 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Oh you silver tongued devil you

L: MonsterCat I would say that Jackson has played a lot of roles that basically require him to play off recognizable Jackson tropes, but I disagree that's he has done throughout his career. Rgirvan listed some pretty good examples there. idn't say ALL his roles were similiar, just the huge majority. Come on, there are countless jokes about how "Jackson-like" most of his perfermances are, all over the internet and if it's on the internet then it must be true ... More

Posted by Don_a_van at 13:47, 25 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Oh you silver tongued devil you

I would say that Jackson has played a lot of roles that basically require him to play off recognizable Jackson tropes, but I disagree that's he has done throughout his career. Rgirvan listed some pretty good examples there. ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 13:28, 25 January 2013 | Report This Post


tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1853728/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1]Djan go Unchainedarantino always wanted to make a Spaghetti Western and here it finally is. Slave Django (Jamie Foxx) goes, together with bounty hunter Dr. Schultz (a wonderful Christoph Waltz) looking for his caputerd wife. Tarantino`s dreamproject is an excellent hard and bloody hommage to the Western and has surprisingly much humor. It is remakble too see though how in a film about the title hero it is exactly this character that is the o... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 12:09, 25 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Oh you silver tongued devil you

L: Don_a_van L: Rgirvan44 It boggles my mind that people think Jackson is doing the same old thing here. I wonder if I have even watched Pulp Fiction, Star Wars and Django when I read here folks think it is the exact.same.performance. The only thing they have in common is that they are played by the same guy - but his mannerisms, his voice inflections and what he is protraying are so different that to paraphrase a certain film, they ain't even the same sport. This - http://www... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 12:04, 25 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Oh you silver tongued devil you

L: Rgirvan44 It boggles my mind that people think Jackson is doing the same old thing here. I wonder if I have even watched Pulp Fiction, Star Wars and Django when I read here folks think it is the exact.same.performance. The only thing they have in common is that they are played by the same guy - but his mannerisms, his voice inflections and what he is protraying are so different that to paraphrase a certain film, they ain't even the same sport. This - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P... More

Posted by Don_a_van at 11:36, 25 January 2013 | Report This Post


One star missing from Empire's review

There was either a typo or someone at the Empire office must be friends with that Channel Four newsreader to only giver Django Unchained a 'paltry' four stars. If the overblown, talk-fest of Daniel Day Lewis doing an impersonation of Mr Burns from The Simpsons merits five stars (oh, it's Sir Steven and don't Empire just love him?) then Django Unchained is by far the more entertaining, informative and in terms of historical accuracy compared to Lincoln's jaundiced storytelling better of the two ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by C K Dexter Haven at 09:07, 25 January 2013 | Report This Post


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