Review by Gordon Justesen
Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 166 Minutes
Release Date: April 16, 2013
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist.”
QT has done it again!
Just about every film that received Oscar attention earlier this year fully deserved it. History was depicted magnificently in Lincoln and Argo, visual filmmaking reached new heights with Life of Pi, the dramatic comedy had been born again with Silver Linings Playbook, and the movie musical was given perhaps one of its best representations ever with the stunning Les Miserables. But the film amongst this crop that ended up at the top of my best list for 2012 was a western/revenge/exploitation/slave epic that tested just about every cinematic excess in known existence.
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s seventh directorial odyssey, can actually be considered a companion piece to his previous effort, Inglourious Basterds. Both films have heroic characters unleashing pure hell on despicable forces of hate, and in both Mr. Tarantino displays his undying passion for cinema and its power more so than in any of his previous efforts. Now friends, THAT is saying something.
And also like Basterds, this isn’t accurate history being reflected on film. But rather it’s Tarantino using the power of film to prove to the audience that, even with concerning the past…anything can happen! Watching soldiers literally burn down the Third Reich was something we all wanted to see and loved when it happened, and now we get to see a slave become free, become a born gunfighter and blast nasty slave owners to kingdom come!
The film opens in 1858 Texas, as Django (Jamie Foxx) finds himself suddenly a free man once purchased by dentist turned bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Django has earned his freedom because he is able to identify the faces of the very targets Schultz is after. Before long, Schultz makes a job offer to Django who then becomes his partner in business.
In exchange for helping Schultz take down wanted men, which then results in a most profitable hunting season, Django is promised to be reunited with his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), no matter how man plantations it takes to reach her. They eventually locate her whereabouts, which is that of the Mississippi plantation known as Candie Land. Her slave master is the notorious Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Although QT has never been one to disappoint, I was actually curious as to how this movie would unfold in terms of the narrative. This is his first film since the unfortunate passing of his longtime editor, Sally Menke. Many were wondering if that would have any effect on how this film would play out.
And though Django Unchained is perhaps Tarantino’s most traditional film to date, narrative-wise, he still manages to keep you engaged throughout because, like all great Tarantino films, you aren’t sure where the narrative is leading you to…but you can always expect a most explosive payoff. And boy, is that ever true here. On top of that, there’s Tarantino’s trademark rich dialogue in scene after scene for us to enjoy as we are lead down the unpredictable path.
As expected, Tarantino gets 100% out of each member of his outstanding cast. This is easily Jamie Foxx’s best role since his Oscar win for Ray. He and Christoph Waltz, who scored his second Supporting Actor Oscar here, have fantastic chemistry right from their very first meeting. And I never though I’d see the day when Leonardo DiCaprio played such a joyously vile character, but the impossible was accomplished and he’s a marvel to watching in playing against type.
And Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson has what has got to be one of his biggest scene-stealing roles to date…now just think about that for a second!
Although I’d rank it as the director’s third best film to date, only because I find Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds to be two film experiences unlike any other, Django Unchained is nonetheless easily my pick for the best film of 2012. This is Tarantino unleashed, as we get the most epic western in quite some time, not to mention the most violent, with unforgettable characters and a level of filmmaking that is simply A-grade quality!
BONUS: Franco Nero, who appears briefly in the film, played the title role in an unrelated 1966 film entitled Django.
When you combine the grand cinematic vision of Tarantino with that of Blu-ray, you are never going to get anything close to negative results. This release from Anchor Bay is visually outstanding from beginning to end! With a film that’s consistently set in outdoor scenery, the image detail is thoroughly striking to the eye. Nighttime scenes play out wonderfully too. The cinematography of Robert Richardson, one of the best cameramen of all time, is rich, vibrant and all around stunning, and made even more so by this terrific Blu-ray release!
By now, one should always know what to expect from a QT film, sound-wise. Add in a top-notch DTS HD mix, and you’ve got the makings of an unforgettable sound experience. Everything in this presentation is of the highest sounding order, from dialogue delivery to explosive outbursts of gun blasts to a terrific soundtrack lineup (Tarantino made a few bold choices this time around with the music, and I completely applaud him for it).
Included on this Blu-ray release are three featurettes; “Re-imagining the West: The Horses and Stunts of Django Unchained”, “Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of Django Unchained” and “The Costume Designs of Sharen Davis.” Rounding out the extras is a promo for 20 Years in the Making: The Tarantino XX Blu-ray Collection (which is a definite MUST OWN RELEASE) and a promo for the film’s soundtrack.
Django Unchained is raw, bloody, hilarious, action packed and a full on display of all things cinematic. Quentin Tarantino continues his unstoppable streak of taking genre films and making them every bit his own! And the Blu-ray release from Anchor Bay delivers a phenomenal presentation!