Movie review: Django Unchained

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‘The ‘D’ is silent’ but Django is certainly not. The German hero Seigfried is out to rescue princess Broomhilda and as legend would have it, he rescues her from an encircling hellfire with fire-breathing dragon guarding her.

If you are confused, that is the main plot of the film Django Unchained, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Django (Jamie Foxx) is a black slave who is set free by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) for his own good and later helps him in finding his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who is a slave at the house of Monsieur Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

The film is a typical Tarantino product. Set in mid 19th century in Southern USA, the film brings back the Western genre mixed with Tarantinian vengeance & violence and is very nicely at par with the cult classic Client Eastwood’s The Good, the bad and the ugly. It is a story of ‘taking’ love at any cost, though nothing romantic about it.

A great story meats a great direction married with awesome performances by all the three main characters- Foxx, waltz and DiCaprio. The story builds up for around 55-60 minutes and meets the eventual larger set up when DiCaprio enters the scene. That is how a story is told. There is no hurry. There is a reason as there has to be a reason for everything on a canvas. Tarantino gives you all the explanation you need and lefts nothing to be assumed.

Story is linear most of the times with some flashes from past signifying the associated action in the present. But that creates good cinematic effect and keeps the viewer in the loop. Story starts with Django being taken away through a forest with metal cuffs in hands and legs when King, a bounty hunter, rescues him by killing his master as Django knows the faces of the person he is looking for.

They both form a good team as Django is a natural shooter with, as King would call him, ‘the fastest hands in the South’. In the process Django speaks of his wife Broomhilda, a black slave who knows German, and expresses his desire to find and get her her freedom.
Here King tells Django the legend of Brynhildr (or Broomhilda), the princess and how the German hero Seigfried rescues her against all odds.

That is what is going to happen in the story. Djano is Seigfried, Broomhilda is her princess trapped at the top of the mountain (Candie’s Candyland) guarded by gunmen breathing fire from their guns. In the last shot, it appears as if Broomhilda is indeed rescued from a hellfire as Django blows up Candie’s big house with dynamite and there is fire all around.

Like any good film of Western genre, the background score is thrilling. The score just merges with the scenes and make it multidimensional. You not only enjoy the shots but also the accompanying sounds that enhance your experience.

The film has many songs as well and none disturb the tempo of the story or the scheme of the film as mainstream Bollywood films mostly do. Songs tell you the mood of the subplot and help build the scenes that are in the frame or are going to come. Music is soothing and disturbing, as the sequences desire them to be.

Tarantino is known to picturise violence in a way that none other does. He makes it look good and cinematically beautiful. In general, you won’t find the gunshots leaving you with a feeling of disgust. Even the colour of blood and the way it spills all around looks aesthetic. The loud sounds of heart beat when someone is getting shot came as an innovative idea.

There are many scenes which have been picturised in a great way- the shadow of Foxx kissing Washington, Foxx leaving with Waltz in a red sunset backdrop atop their horses, Foxx surrounded by guns all around in DiCaprio’s house, Foxx shooting the snowman or the stylish ways in which he practices his pistol handling skills. Good scene compositions make the movie cinematically beautiful despite the cold blooded gunfights.

Editing of the movie is commendable. Though it is nothing new to have present and past brought together in consecutive frames but still it creates a nice effect and viewers comfortably know the background of the events. The technique has been used few times like the dining scene and how they reach the place, the discussion about the course of action and the actual action… This treatment brings about a certain effect which is necessary to bring the viewer out of the flat and linear mode of storytelling.

There are not many instances where DiCaprio’s performances has been trumped by another actor in a movie, Django Unchained is one such movie. Jamie Foxx is simply fluid, in the character and brilliant in his character. His mannerisms, language, angst, and helplessness have all been perfectly executed. He is a lover, a faithful partner and a sharp shooter and is ready to go to any mountain and cross any hellfire that is guarding his princes. He is certainly ‘the one nigger in ten thousand’. (Don’t search for racism here, please!)

Waltz is equally brilliant for his character of a bounty hunter and an actor whenever required. He plays a good partner and friend to a man who helped him found many bounties and the one who seeks to find and free his lover.

DiCaprio as a mean businessman who loves the slaves fight to death and doesn’t bother to throw a ‘useless’ slave for being ripped by dogs. He is lavish and menacing (when required) who is not afraid of ‘insisting’ his opponent to come to his terms. He plays his role to great depth but Foxx just rolls him over in the same frame.

A small mention must be made for Samuel Jackson who plays his part to perfection. Jackson plays Steven, a black guy who looks after the slaves and is some sort of personal adviser to DiCaprio. He is comfortably settled in his accented English and in the role of a yesman of sorts to his master.

There are not many directors who attempt to create a Western movie when the whole world is busy doing something else. Tarantino does it brilliantly and all his characters live their roles on the screen. He has written a great story and executed it in a way that only he could have.

When the story, plots & subplots, camera, music, dialogues, acting and direction all come together to form a compact unit, you get Django Unchained. The ‘D’ is silent!

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