The last Tarantino to hit our screens was 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, a Nazi-killing drama set in occupied France during the Second World War. I’ve still not got over how awesome I thought it was…
In Tarantino’s new spaghetti Western, Django Unchained, the Germans switch sides from the baddies to the goodies. Dr Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German bounty hunter, recruits Django (Jamie Foxx), a black slave, to join him in his quest to kill ruthless white Americans and later rescue Django’s lost wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).
After tracking down Broomhilda’s current owner, the swish-talking, waistcoat-buttoned, slave-fighting plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), Django and Schultz attempt to pull the wool over his eyes to save Django’s sweetheart. Of course, true to Tarantino’s signature style, this descends into a landscape of artful brutality.
Despite holding its own as a tale of grizzly excitement culminating in an artful resolute satisfaction, Django just seemed to be lagging behind in the shade of the rest of Tarantino’s oeuvre. It was no Inglorious.
As usual, he has sculpted an artful film from school boy fantasy. However this time, in my mind, he just didn’t pull it off. Despite some powerful performances (Samuel Jackson, Leo Di) the characters just weren’t meaty enough. The famous speeches just didn’t have the same sassy impact as Jules Winnfield or Mr. Blonde. The empowered women – The Bride, Mia Wallace, Shosanna Dreyfus… – who are so central to the strength of Tarantino’s cinematic worlds were completely absent. The humour too, was perhaps too close to the mark to ever truly be funny – it’s as though Tarantino got out the Coen Bros box-set and blended the KKK scene from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? with the new-age Western landscape of True Grit, and took it further than it needed to go.
Though it has its merits and its moments, Django just never had any thrust to break the ground with.
Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino (USA, 2012)