Django Unchained - Text only review

There's a line in Django Unchained about breaking character.
To paraphrase: If you break character, all is lost.

If the movie itself took this advice it would be QT's best work. Better than Reservoir Dogs, better even, than Jackie Brown.

But, lacking either the faith to let his film exist in it's own right or the faith in the audience to enjoy a film that isn't hamfistedly burdened with the directors tired trademarks, Django Unchained falls short of the great film it could be.

The major contributer go this shortfall is the soundtrack. After enduring QT's previous three films I was beginning to think that the man should start producing mix tapes rather than movies.
KBv2, Death Proof, and Inglorious were all sub par films with excellent soundtracks. Django takes the opposite path.

On several occasions the entire tone of the film, it's character, is 'broken' by poor music choices. Tunes from other westerns and modern Hip-hop are both imposed upon proceedings and serve no purpose other to distance the audience, to take them out of America circa 1858 and uncomfortably land them in a cinema seat circa 2013.

Other elements have the same jarring effect.
A scene in which a mob discuss the quality and necessity of their masks seems to exist only as a reference to the directors similar scenes in older movies. This is also true of the antagonists lengthy diatribe which just barely hangs together despite the spectre of the awful Superman monologue from the conclusion of Kill Bill looming over its shoulder.
There are a number of word crawls, subtitles, and crash-zooms which, whilst not being quite as disruptive are ill advised at best.

Nevertheless, Django remains a very well made, well paced, well acted, and - most importantly - a very entertaining movie.

The two protagonists are likeable and their story is impeccably told. It takes its time to build characters and tension in a similar way to QT's other bounty hunter movie, and still his best work, Jackie Brown.

The two main locations, Texas and Mississippi, have contrasting fates.
Texas is complex. By turn eerie and beautiful, menacing and vast. Its people are roundly drawn and varied. Mississippi, on the other hand, is not given the same breadth. Here the environment is reduced to a couple of large houses and one very long road. Largely, the characters here are also less well developed.

The cast of supporting characters are given the quirks and idiosyncrasies that you would expect. Only Dicaprio over indulges in scenery chewing, everyone else - including a heavily made-up - Samuel. L. Jackson is excellent and the duels they partake in, both verbal and combative, are delivered with great flare.
The gunfights are, without exception, brutal and exciting. The sound design in particular is outstanding.

Ultimately it's because of the quality inherent in so much of Django Unchained that the flaws are so jarring - but it would be a shame to have them detract entirely from a very good film that, for the most part, reminds us that QT is a talented director who is very close to regaining the form that made him stand out all those years ago.

It's a very good film then, but one one that falls short of greatness by ignoring its own advice.


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