Yesterday, I talked about my ultimate favourite Western, a true classic of the genre…today, I’m bringing it far more up to date and talking about what I think is the most recent, truly great Western film…Tarantino’s Django Unchained!!
The modern western is a recent sub-gender that has given the Western a boost in recent years in terms of their popularity and significantly helped to revive a dying genre. This film, I believe, is the ultimate modern western…and while still quite a fresh genre, starting in the mid 00’s, I think it’ll be some time before the quality of this one is beaten.
Westerns (or ‘Southerns’ as Tarantino put it), haven’t been this stylish since Leone’s spaghetti westerns of the 60’s that I talked about yesterday. Django Unchained (not to be confused with 1966’s ‘Django’ with Franco Nero) is immense in its stylishness…which is no surprise considering it’s a Tarantino. The violence, the cinematography, the soundtrack and the locations are all incredible and notably, are the same things I discussed yesterday when discussing what makes a great Western. Tarantino, who is known to be a huge lover of spaghetti westerns himself, took the style of those great older films and made it his own in this one.
Django (I’ll just call it this from now on), is not only a film that can be admired for its filmmaking, but, like all Tarantino films, is one that is hugely entertaining, fun, occasionally funny and brutal to the core. The gun battle scenes towards the end of this film are some of the most brilliant and most bloody scenes in Tarantino’s catalogue…but you’d expect nothing less.
Moving on to the acting, one of the most important parts of a film for me, no-one could complain. Jamie Foxx as Django is definitely the coolest Western character since Eastwood’s ‘Man with no name’ and he plays the part incredibly, with both a brutality (just look at the cover photo) and an emotional drive of which you feel along with him. Christoph Waltz, in his 2nd Oscar winning collaboration with Tarantino, is fully deserved of the honour as Dr. King Schultz, a bounty hunter, who frees Django from slavery in an enthralling opening scene and takes him on as a partner…the chemistry between the two actors is also excellent. This partnership eventually leads them to Mr (or Monsieur) Calvin Candie, unforgettably and horrifyingly played by the great Leo DiCaprio…one of the most villainous characters Tarantino has ever given us.
The whole reason they visit Candie’s plantation in the first place is to rescue Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) taken away from him by his former slave owners and after tracking her down with Dr. Schultz for many months, eventually finds her. The scene in which Django and Broomhila see each other again, for the first time, is so wonderfully directed…it is both light hearted yet hugely emotional, downplayed and yet, hugely significant…for Tarantino, this is quite a romantic film and definitely takes this element off some of the more traditional American Westerns. Washington as Broomhilda, is also great…the vulnerability is played perfectly as is the downplayed desperation of her character.
And we haven’t even got onto Stephen yet…
Samuel L. Jackson, as Stephen, Candie’s right hand man, and oldest and most trusted slave, is truly ruthless. You only have to watch the film to realise that. Yet he is also a source of the more fun and entertaining side of the film…his bewilderment to see Django (a black man) ride into the plantation on horseback is hilarious…Tarantino was definitely having fun with this one…a tone which I hope is repeated in the upcoming ‘The Hateful Eight’, another Western.
I don’t want to go on too long with these so I’ll begin to wrap it up…in short, the stylishness is pure Tarantino gold, all the traditional Western elements are there and are done sublimely and the performances, like many in Tarantino’s films, are unforgettable.
I havent even talked about the scene in Big Daddy’s plantation, a place I have personally visited myself…but that just shows that there is too many different things to say positively about this film that I couldn’t possibly say them all quickly…this is, in my opinion, Tarantino’s best since Pulp Fiction…and well worth the watch…it has that many different elements to it, that it is difficult to place into a single genre…but it is undoubtedly mostly Western influenced…a modern western marvel.
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Another Western Tomorrow