Movie #9 2020: Django Unchained (2012)

Jamie Foxx as Django and Christoph Waltz as Dr. Schultz

As a relatively big fan of Quentin Tarantino, it’s a little bit odd that it took me until 2020 to watch this movie. Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill Vol. 1 are two of my favourite movies of all time, but there’s something about his more recent ventures that haven’t intrigued me. (I didn’t even watch Inglorious Basterds until late 2019).

In fact, it might have been my foray into Inglorious that persuaded me to give this one a go. With a runtime of 165 minutes, it could be the length that put me off; who, in this day and age, has 165 minutes to spare when there is so much to do? Well I made time. And I’m glad I did.

There’s one performance that really stands out for me when I think of this movie, and that is Christoph Waltz. Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington were both as wonderful as always, but we all already knew how brilliant they were. Waltz, however, is an actor that very few movie-goers in the Western world were truly aware of before QT brought him to attention in 2009. Here, he stars in his sophomore Tarantino movie and once again steals the show with his wit, timing, and ability to play both comedic and dramatic scenes. He acts with such subtlety at the same time as being very grandiose, which makes it difficult for me to not put him in my favourite actors of the century list.

Interestingly, I had no idea that Samuel L. Jackson was even in this movie until I watched it. Playing an old man butler, I feel that his performance is criminally underrated, specially because I didn’t even know he was in the bloody thing! Maybe it’s because he’s sort of a minor/supporting character, so his performance was simply eclipsed by some of the heftier roles.

A personal favourite moment was the one in which Don Johnson trotted in with his racist pals on horseback, and they had a full-on tiff because they couldn’t decide whether or not to wear their KKK-esque bags on their heads. This was a comedic masterpiece of a scene embedded in an otherwise serious topic for me that brought a lightness to the movie, whilst also pointing out the stupidity of racist people in general.

There’s no surprise that this was nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar either. I’m not sure what it is, but QT has something unique about the way he directs, and Robert Richardson (a regular cinematographer for Quentin, who has won the aforementioned accolade 3 times and also worked on other much-loved films such as Casino, Shutter Island and Natural Born Killers) absolutely smashes it as usual.

Although this is not my favourite Tarantino movie, that’s not to say it isn’t fucking brilliant. Because it really is. I say this purely because the majority of his movies are bloody genius. (I haven’t actually seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood yet, but I can’t imagine it’d rank higher than Django for me personally).

On the whole, a solid entry in the Tarantino archive.

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