Quentin Tarantino has never really played by the rules over the course of his career as a filmmaker. From his early films, which have since become modern classics such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, to his recent work such as Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino has proven he’s not afraid to take risks, or push the boundaries when demonstrating his artistry. In Django Unchained, Tarantino has undeniable created a vehicle to indulge in wild fantasy to such an excess, that he may need a stint in rehab to recover.
Django Unchained is a re-imagining of Sergio Corbucci’s popular 1966 spaghetti western revenge film Django, which starred Franco Nero in the titular role. Keeping in line with the director’s unorthodox style, Django Unchained attempts to combine the ambiance and style of a classic spaghetti western, with the delicate topic of slavery in the Deep South just before the Civil War. Tarantino essentially rips to shreds all history books on slavery and decides to tell a somewhat more whimsical tale.
This film has all of the trademarks of a true Tarantino film; the violence is brutal and uncompromising. There are some great stylish action sequences all set to a pulsating eclectic soundtrack, which again in true Tarantino style has everything from hip hop to Wild West classics. There are cute prolonged dialogues, funny anecdotes, everything you have come to expect from a Tarantino film is in Django Unchained - if you are a fan of the director, you will no doubt be impressed with this fantasy tale.
However, Django Unchained is somewhat of a dichotomy. For all the things that make this film entertaining (the action, comedy, fun, fantasy), it’s fairly uncomfortable viewing. This film is essentially about one of the darkest periods in the history of mankind and the film is far too jovial and entertaining to be a film about slavery; a gruesome, brutal, disgusting time in history. Whilst audiences eat their popcorn and marvel at the director’s cute use of dialogue, enjoy the comedic one-liners and slow-mo action scenes with Rick Ross music blasting in the background. Will they really walk away with a genuine insight into slavery?
Of course not. Audiences may leave entertained to a certain degree, but at what cost? Tarantino is a visionary director, but as to whether this film comes close to resembling anything like a genuine slavery story – that’s debatable. Yes, there are graphic scenes depicting the brutality that slaves endured, but graphic brutality is a given in any Tarantino film and isn’t unique to Django Unchained.
Whilst one may be of the opinion that Django Unchained is supposed to be a story of fiction, the fact that Tarantino has chosen to make light of such a serious subject is where this film falters. There are a number of scenes that are intended to bring entertainment but instead come across as highly inappropriate. I find it hard to laugh at a bumbling group of KKK clan members who are about to embark on killing a person simply because of the colour of their skin, but get sidetracked into arguing over the fact that they can’t see through the holes in the white sheets they have placed over their heads. This odd scene, which featured an equally as odd cameo from Jonah Hill (Superbad), came across as unfunny and awkward, and could of quite easily fitted into an episode of, say, The Office.
From a technical standing, Django Unchained is a good film and contains all the key ingredients that you would expect from Quentin Tarantino – in that respect he has succeeded in making an entertaining film. However if you look at this film morally and ethically, I would have say Django Unchained simply left a bad taste in my mouth. If this film was simply a spaghetti western revenge film and the slavery backdrop was non-existent, then I would be hailing Django Unchained as another Tarantino classic. However whilst this western, slavery, fantasy adventure film has all the hallmarks of a Tarantino classic, unfortunately the director didn’t take enough time to consider the gravity in trying to re-write the history of slavery for entertainment purposes.
Whilst Django Unchained is a wildly fanciful and unique concept, it should have perhaps stayed within the realms of Tarantino’s vivid imagination.
This article was first posted on January 16, 2013