Quentin Tarantino is a genius. He is becoming the great dramatic storyteller, inheriting the mantle of Alfred Hitchcock. He has established himself as the master filmmaker of our time.
When I saw that opening scene in Inglourious Basterds — that marvelous scene in the French countryside — I thought, ah-HA! Brilliant! This is more than I expected; we’ve really got something here. This could be really good. And it was. So sets the stage for his next movie…
In Django Unchained, Cristoph Waltz plays a character not dissimilar to that of his Nazi Basterd in QT’s last film — except this time he’s a good guy. He has this ability to appear as something of a mustache-curling dimwit while at the same time preparing yet another ingenious Houdini act, out-witting everyone within shouting range. And he is absolutely hilarious doing it — this movie is full of laughs.
Waltz plays former dentist turned bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz, who pairs up with soon-to-be freed slave Django, played with spirit and vitality by Jamie Foxx. These two go about their business, continuously running afoul of their southern company and plunging into one seemingly inextricable situation after another. At the center of QT’s genius is his ability to weave and build up these fantastic dramatic sequences wherein our heroes become further and further entangled. The brash King Schultz and his protégé Django swing delightfully haphazardly into these situations — until you realize Schultz is not haphazard at all. It’s all part of a brilliant scheme, and we can’t wait to see how he gets himself out this time.
Tarantino has wisely never tried to re-make or even return to the form of his masterpiece Pulp Fiction. For a while there, with the Kill Bill duplex and Planet Terror, it seemed he was in a pattern of making entertaining if not particularly exceptional movies; certainly nothing that approached the bar set with Pulp Fiction. The Kill Bill movies were certainly fun, but a little draggy at times, and basically Tarantino’s straightforward take on, and homage to, old school martial arts movies. Inglourious Basterds derailed that track and set off in a direction I could not have anticipated: unique, original, brilliant and fantastically entertaining cinema.
So it was that I was keen to see Django. But with a 2 hr. 45 min running time, I was fearful of dull boring passages. I thought that maybe Basterds was a one-off fluke. And further, the previews and marketing for Django stirred me only a little, not unlike Basterds’ marketing, which did not motivate me at all. That may be because the small bits and bites that comprise a trailer do not do justice to the beautifully constructed sequences in these movies.
Django Unchained is a fantastically entertaining, fun, brilliant and wonderful movie. A testament to how good it is: the long running time of 2 hr. 45 min flies by — a difficult feat to acomplish. I will at some point publish my Best of 2012 list, which I had for months thought would be topped by little indie Sound of My Voice. But now it’s clear that the best movie of the year is Django Unchained. My only reservation: is it a 9 or a 10? 10 is the mark of a timeless masterpiece, so it seems that I should give a movie some time before bestowing upon it a 10. So for now, Django Unchained receives a 9/10, with my right reserved to upgrade it sometime in the future.
A note on the titles & credits: In my post on Basterds, I noted the various font styles QT uses at the beginning of his films, and the signature “A Band Apart” cuing the audience for impending Tarantino hilarity. Django has omitted both these elements, sticking to a consistent title scheme — a minor disappointment perhaps. I think this is because QT uses titles here as a way of adhering to the stylistic theme of the spaghetti western genre, as he talked about in the Charlie Rose interview I recently posted on.
And one last thing: stay through the credits. There is one last “Easter egg” at the very end.