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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cody's Film Review: Django Unchained

 I was really curious to see how QT would do with his first film without his right arm, editor Sally Menke who died in 2010. Tarantino has never worked with another editor and I'm sure she was one of the last remaining people that could tell him "no" and he would listen. Django Unchained feels like a Quentin Tarantino film and I think he correctly chose to do a simple film for his first venture without Menke. Luckily the Tarantino stamp is still there, and he hasn't skipped a beat. The music, the acting, the look, and even the pacing is very Tarantino/Menke feel except the end. *SPOILERS from here on* I believe Django is about 15 minutes too long and when the movie should have ended it kept going. The viewer gets two shoot out endings and a bad transition scene with QT the Aussie and an unlikely scenario where slave traders listen to a slave about how to get some riches. The first shoot out scene where all the heavies die is the way to end the film. Adding a second shoot out scene where the only characters you care about is Jaimie Fox and Samuel L. Jackson and everyone else are secondary characters is bad filmaking, but it's mainly a huge editing gaffe. It takes some of the thunder out of the first shoot out and again the QT scene is almost as bad as the girls gabbing at the table scene in Death Proof. I think if Tarantino had a confident editor who's previous editing ventures weren't the Fast and the Furious films they would have told him not to have two endings and also to give up acting. I'm not saying Fred Raskin did a bad job, because this is still a very enjoyable movie, but rightfully who is he to tell someone of Tarantino's stature what to do. With that said, Django Unchained is still one of the better films this year and a pleasure to watch. The story is simple, but this film more than delivers with great dialog and tremendous acting on all fronts. Waltz is great as usual and Don Johnson is really funny, but as usual in all QT films there is a stand out performance. It's a sin that Leonardo DiCaprio got ignored for an Oscar this year because he is an evil bastard and I always admire an actor who doesn't mind taking a chance at being the bad guy. Every scene he's in the audience is nervous while the characters are walking on egg shells because your just not sure what he's going to do. It's great tension and Leo really pulls it off. I also loved how reserved Jamie Fox was throughout the entire movie. It would have been entirely inaccurate for a life long slave to walk around being flamboyant, arrogant, and other attributes that follow modern movie action hero's. He does show flashes of these traits, but he is a student of Waltz's and as time goes on he learns how the game is played. He really listens to Waltz and keeps his eye on the prize and in the end it's Waltz that becomes undisciplined and loses his cool. I thought the biggest missed opportunity was Samuel L. Jackson's character. I love the idea that he is Leo's consiliere, and makes sense, since he helped raise him. I like the feeble old codger who is nothing but someone to laugh at, but behind the scenes he pulls the strings. The problem I had was he put too much Samuel L. in the feeble old man character, he should have been more reserved like Fox. Just because your Samuel L. Jackson doesn't mean you have to yell Shit! and Fuck! every 2 minutes. He ends up becoming comic relief and only shines in the quiet moments.I see that he need for him to be foolish I just thought it was bit over the top and we had a great chance to see Samuel L. act. I didn't think the violence was much of an issue, because it is a Quentin Tarantino film and the violence is a plot point. There is a big variation between the way white people die and the way the slaves die. The cartoonish way white people die is supposed to be over the top and a little silly, and it would be offensive if he was to do the same with the slaves. The dogs killing the slave scene is horrifying, but it supposed to be and it's a turning point in the film. From this point on we know Leo is capable of anything and is truly evil and Waltz starts to become unhinged. Waltz isn't the same person after this scene, he becomes nervous and agitated. For the first time he is truly introduced to the horrors of slavery, and therefore falls out of character, which eventually leads to his demise. Overall it's a really enjoyable film, but it's also a simple film which only takes a few risks. I think every Tarantino film is groundbreaking in someway and Django Unchained is the least groundbreaking of all of his films. I believe this film was a baby step for QT because he was testing the waters without his second in command Sally Menke. 3.5 out 5 Stars