Quentin Tarantino has an undisputed movie magic. Every film he does is injected with an aspect that will keep you gripped and impressed through to the final credits, even if the rest of the movie’s ingredients don’t always live up to standard. The dialogue and structure of Pulp Fiction is perfect, the tension filled scenes in both Reservoir Dogs and Inglorious Basterds make those films memorable and the action in Death Proof is enough to stop it being a complete disaster of a movie.
It’s also the performances he manages to pull out of the actors he casts which keep his movies from faltering and floundering, even when other elements don’t click. Pulp Fiction revived John Travolta’s career, Inglorious Basterds made Christoph Waltz a recognisable name and Django Unchained builds on his performance but also delivers an ultra cool Jamie Foxx and intense, sometimes terrifying Leonardo Di Caprio.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this could well be Leonardo Di Caprio’s best performance. He is a world away from the cheeky Jack in Titanic but also a different type of character from the intense Cobb in Inception. From the moment he is on-screen in this movie, Di Caprio is a scary, coiled spring and when he does snap, it makes for some the more brilliant scenes in the movie.
That doesn’t go to say that he steals the movie. Foxx is the perfect hero in every respect. He plays the slave turned bounty hunter with effortless cool and gets the best sequences, scenes and exciting moments in the movie. It still comes down to Christoph Waltz though. His performance as Dr King Schultz is the movie stealing turn, getting the best lines and the coolest moments. The movie hinges on Waltz and Foxx’s performance and it doesn’t disappoint.
The chemistry and relationship that develops between the two bounty hunters is so well written and brilliantly acted that you could have a whole tv series based around their characters (dependant on Foxx and Waltz playing the parts). It’s the skill of Tarantino that he has crafted such excellent characters that you root for, fear with and suffer through.
A lot of this great chemistry comes down to a well-written script. Funny, unpredictable and full of great dialogue and bizarre conversations that have become a stable of Tarantino, the story flows along at a good rate, building the characters, their relationships and their ultimate journey.
It’s not just a character study though. The film is heavy on the blood-soaked action from the beginning and doesn’t relent until the final credits. It has everything from shoot-outs to fist-fights, all as brutal and as violent as you’d expect a Tarantino film to be. More impressive and telling is also the complete lack of CGI employed for any of it.
It is a Tarantino movie though so something has to give. In the case of Django Unchained, it is the very indulgent running time. The movie feels like it has a false ending, a moment that Tarantino could have used ably to wrap the movie up. The final forty minutes or so are good but feel like they are added for the sake of a huge climax that isn’t necessarily needed, especially because by this point, some of the better characters have already had their story concluded.
It’s a minor issue and you never find yourself bored but you do begin to wonder where the story is going. It doesn’t take away from this being one of the best Tarantino movies in a long while and up there with Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds.
Overall, Django Unchained is another example of the Tarantino magic in action. It is brilliantly written, an exercise in how to choose great actors delivering great performances but also how to craft a very exciting story with lots of fantastic action set-pieces. Long run-time aside, Django Unchained is one of Tarantino’s best.
Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)