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I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of Tarantino’s latest masterpiece in London last week, Django Unchained, which releases nationwide on January 18th. Violence and gore expected, the laugh out loud comedy wasn’t!
Taking his inspiration from the dark underbelly of spaghetti westerns, Tarantino has created a brutal, sick, and meanly funny saga depicting the lustful revenge of Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz buys Django’s freedom, but at a price. Django must help Schultz find the murderous Brittle brothers, his previous owners. Ironically, Schultz begins to feel responsible for the man whose freedom he bought, helping Django learn how to kill, ‘dress’, and read and eventually promising to help Django find his lost wife ‘Broomhilda’ (Kerry Washington). Their search leads them to the moustache twirling Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of the infamous ‘Candyland’ plantation where Bloomhilder is a house slave. Exploring the compound under false pretenses, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (the barely recognizable Samuel L. Jackson), who is Candie’s trusted house slave and thinks of himself as a ‘pale face’.
Set in the deep south just before the civil war, Tarantino makes a point of pushing the savagery of slavery to the forefront. There are several horrific and upsetting scenes, the N word getting a heavy outing throughout, and the story unravels to the tune of a commendable hip-hop soundtrack with the likes of Rick Ross, James Brown and 2pac featuring in the mix. Naturally, the film is controversial and has indeed ruffled some feathers within the industry, but whether Tarentino’s irreverent take on slavery offends you or not, the genius of it cannot be escaped or denied.
Perhaps the most surprising element of Django Unchained is its comedy. Amongst the action, violence and sensitive subject matter, Tarantino manages to deliver some seriously cool and seriously silly comedic moments; much of which stems from Tarantino’s love of pithy language, which has not escaped him in Django Unchained . The film is also a visual feast of period set designs and incredible costumes, with Jamie Foxx wearing a certain blue velvet number that is sure to steal hearts and start a trend! Naturally the performances are note-perfect (Samuel L Jackson will certainly make a few draws drop) but the episodic, anecdotal and ‘talky’ structure could be considered to be a little indulgent as the film is rather long at 180 minutes. However, the constant injection of weighty material with so many jocular, startling and unexpected touches will keep you entertained and distracted from the fact that you need the bathroom, particularly within the last 20 minutes.
Receiving critical acclaim and being nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz) and Best Original Screenplay (Quentin Tarantino), this really is a blazing return to form for Tarentino. If you think westerns aren’t your thing, think again. If you think the film may offend you, it probably won’t, but it’s worth finding out. Whatever the outcome of your viewing experience, it is impossible to leave the cinema without being in awe at what you have just seen. It is, indeed, a masterpiece.