Django Unchained | Movie Review
One of the most anticipated blockbusters of 2012, Django Unchained has received five Oscar nominations, 88% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and earned more than US$400 million at box offices worldwide. Now, what other reasons do you need to catch Quentin Tarantino’s latest film?
Django Unchained (Rated: M18 & runs 165 minutes) is the second installment of the famed writer-director’s “Rewritten History” trilogy. The first installment, Inglourious Basterds (2009), was a tough film to follow, but boy, did Tarantino manage to step out of his own shadow! He even won himself a second Oscar statue for Best Original Screenplay at the 85th Academy Awards.
Set in the Deep South two years before the American Civil War, Django (Jamie Foxx) – remember the “D” is silent! – is a slave who is recruited and later freed by a German-born dentist turned bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). The good doctor needs Django’s help to hunt down outlaw plantation overseers, the Brittle brothers. This partnership turns out to be a great success, but Django isn’t happy. Why? Because his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), was sold to a charming but vicious plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who ironically has a black senior house slave named Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) as his mentor. With the help of Dr. Schultz and a lot of bullets, Django sets his sight on Candyland (as Calvin’s plantation is named) to rescue his wife.
Foxx’s character isn’t the only one being unchained here. Tarantino certainly unchained himself from his usual screenwriting style by going back to Hollywood formulae. Instead of his usual non-linear story structure, with protagonists driven purely by vengeance, stuck in modern-day settings with no original music score, Tarantino goes the opposite direction this time around. What’s obvious in Django Unchained is the traditional Hero’s Journey with the protagonist motivated more by love than vengeance. I guess this would make the movie his first “Romantic” film.
The A-list ensemble cast consists of seasoned actors who have a long track record in proving their talents, so it’s no surprise that their performances are second to none. However, great performance might not always give you the accolades you deserve. DiCaprio is exceptional but was snubbed by the Academy when nomination day arrived. But Waltz was deservedly nominated and he ended up winning his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Hollywood is often rewriting history, adding fabrication to true events, real-life characters and dialogues in the name of better and more interesting storytelling. But to change the entire course of history?
Only Tarantino has the courage and audacity to pull it off: A band of vanguard soldiers killing Hitler and the whole of Nazi Party to end the war (in Inglourious Basterds), and a slave going on frenzied Chow Yun Fat mode by picking up two guns and turning the ending scene of Django Unchained into a Hong Kong bullet-ballet-bloodbath. As Tarantino continues to rewrite history in his films, he is, in a strange way, writing his own history too.
Text by: Lan Hao Yong
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