*There are many spoilers to follow. Consider yourself warned.*
Watch the trailer here.
By now you probably know whether or not you like Quentin Tarantino’s shtick. On the whole, I’m generally a fan. I admit that he has a lot of flaws – flaws that are more than evident in this particular feature – but his films are entertaining and sometimes even ask interesting questions of the viewer.
I’ve heard some reviews claim that Django is his best film yet, and I was excited to see it. Boy, was I disappointed. It wasn’t that the film was necessarily bad, or the flaws any worse than his other films… I think my major issue with this film is that it had the potential to be so much better. The pacing, as in every film he has ever made, was absolutely atrocious. And while I accept that he is quite possibly the best writer of dialogue in the industry, this does not give him a free pass to have large chunks of his film where the characters just sit around and talk. Even if it is the best conversation I have ever heard in my life, I don’t care enough to sit through all that fucking talking. It’s a film – stuff should actually happen, not just be talked about.
The structure of the film also leaves a lot to be desired. Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) doesn’t show up until well into act 3, reminiscent of Star Wars: A New Hope and Han Solo. This might not always be a problem, but here the shift from act 1 to act 2 felt like the film was going in a completely different direction – like they up and changed the story on us and forgot to let us know.
The standard ‘3 act structure’ possibly isn’t the best way to define this film anyway. It certainly didn’t feel like a traditional structure, which again, isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I like new, different, risk taking, genre defining and creation awesomeness just as much as the next person… but this just didn’t work. The way I broke it down was this:
- Act 1: Learning to be a bounty hunter/building a relationship with his mentor Schulz
- Act 2: Meeting Calvin Candie and being invited back to his property
- Act 3 (and this is where is seriously breaks down…): Completing the deal/shout out no. 1/fake Australian accents (and one real one)/shoot out no. 2/explosion
Here’s the long and short of it: there are too many endings. This film could have been an awesome revenge tragedy (one of my favourite genres ever) – it still almost is, but not quite (Django gets to ride off into the sunset with his beloved, so not quite enough tragedy going on – even though everyone else dies). At the first shoot out, if both of them had died there, or at least his beloved Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), and QT had the sense to end the film there – it would have been GREAT.
This is not how it goes down, however. Django surrenders and is shipped off to the LeQuint Dickey Mining Co. with QT doing a cringe-worthy Australian accent alongside an actual Aussie (and former Better Homes and Gardens handyman, John Jarratt). He convinces these morons that he is a bounty hunter (ok, that part’s true) and that he will let them in on his winnings (yeah, right). But of course he double crosses them, and this pointless scene is over in a matter of minutes. Back we go to Candieland for a reunion with Broomhilda (which, I gotta say, does have an awesome shot of their embracing shadows, followed by a fantastic low-lit scene of the Candie family walking down the path from having mourned Calvin’s death…) and a second seemingly final shoot out.
But hey, just shooting? Regular fighting like we’ve had through the entire film? Clearly that isn’t an exciting enough ending for QT. So instead, Django blows the place to pieces. And why not? It’s a spectacle. We have some silliness on horses, and The End. Finally.
Ok, so the structure was awful, but what made this film alright instead of completely awful? One thing I can never fault Tarantino for is this: film is an audio and visual medium – something that many directors forget, but QT knows how to use. Silence can be important, sound effects (even the jangling of a shoe, the rustling of trees, etc) can be important and used effectively, and music can set the scene just as well as a recognizable shot or dialogue. I think QT uses sound in his films better than anyone else out there, and this film was a great example of that.
I have to mention Christoph Waltz. He was brilliant in Inglorious Basterds, but that was only the beginning. He makes this film. My only issue was with his final act – shooting Candie. To me, that was an illogical move for his character. Yes, he hated everything that Candie stood for, but throughout the film he is the calm, cool, collected one. He would have known that shooting Candie would condemn them all. It seemed inconsistent to me.
Verdict: Fun film for the most part; not brilliant, just ok.