I'm pretty sure everyone I've ever shared conversation about movies with knows of my disdain for Quentin Tarantino films. I've never quite been able to put a finger on specifically why they haven't done anything for me. All the pieces are there to add up to great films. I get the impression that Tarantino is a cinephile and making movies is only an extension of his love for cinema. I get it. I think his love of cinema should be enough for me to put aside my issues and simply love his love of film. With that in mind, I dove into Django Unchained last night. I've not seen it before and it's been both recommended to me by people who love the film and strongly advised against by people that know of my disdain. The reason I watched it is because of a recommendation for another film I was given a couple days ago. I've strongly voiced my dislike for western movies in the past. I just don't like them. The bravado, machismo, and brash behaviour of what seems like almost every male character in those films gets tiring. The music gets on my nerves. They just don't do it for me. That being said, I was strongly recommended a western that bucked the trend. Everything about it was great and I guess it created a new appreciation. I'm not going to suggest what film it was because I'll be writing a review on it following this but I watched that and had a taste for really good western in my mouth. Django Unchained jumped off the screen at me and I didn't think twice.
I'm still not a tried-and-true fan of Tarantino, but Django Unchained was good. It wasn't great but I enjoyed it for the most part. The basic plot is that in 1858, a slave is given freedom and chooses to free his wife. That's the gist of it, I guess. Were I to be completely honest, that part didn't really interest me. The revenge-type film isn't one I relish too often and it seems like it's a big thing for Tarantino. Maybe if the lead had said he didn't have any money but what he did have was a particular set of skills, it might have endeared me a bit more. Whatever, I'm nitpicking. Christoph Waltz plays Schultz, a bounty hunter masquerading as a dentist. He enlists the help of Django, played by Jamie Foxx, in hunting down a trio of brothers which leads to more bounties and the eventual freeing of Django's wife, played by Kerry Washington of Fantastic Four fame (not Scandal fame, because that shit sucks). Characters are built up, backstories are somewhat revealed, and all comes to fruition in a particularly long denouement in Mississippi where a plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) faces off against the two protagonists. Throughout the entirety of the film, the audience is treated to Tarantino filmmaking. There's a particularly high amount of violence and bloodshed throughout the film. From start to finish, it's a gore-fest. There's a bunch of fun cameos along the way as there are a lot of minor characters that cross paths with the two protagonists. The music is very western until some rap shows up out of nowhere. We are given a labour of love by a guy that obviously appreciates westerns, but doesn't approach them in the clichéd and predictable way.
I think it's obvious that Quentin Tarantino loves film. I think his love of film is shown in a way that really annoys me. Django Unchained clocked in at a tick under three hours and it felt like it was three hours. When Christoph Waltz graced the screen, I was captivated by every word and time flew by effortlessly. When he wasn't, I found myself checking my phone, shifting listlessly, and basically wanting more Waltz. I think I get Tarantino films and as such, I found myself wishing Waltz didn't have to commit the ultimate sacrifice to benefit Django in the first scene of the film. I knew it was going to happen. The writing was on the wall, so to speak. As soon as Waltz's Schultz was killed, I found myself simply wanting the film to end. I was so engaged in Schultz that him no longer being on-screen took away from my film experience. Another fault I find in Tarantino films is that they're generally overwritten. They're wordy as hell and the level of exposition is extraordinary. I think that's been true until Waltz came along. His cadence and tone is a perfect match for the lengthy and usually unnecessary writing of Tarantino. Not one character stood out like he did, unfortunately. I suppose my third criticism would be regarding the graphic violence. It didn't add to the movie for me. Westerns are very violent, and the active choice to up the ante isn't one I felt was necessary. However, it's Tarantino's style and I knew this going in. I was prepared for it, so I wasn't phased by it. I just wasn't pleased with it either.
I made it through another Tarantino film and didn't hate it. Not unlike Inglourious Basterds that came before it, Christoph Waltz made it palatable. He and Tarantino are a match in my books and I hope they work together more. I hope to see more films with Waltz in general. On the film itself, if a person likes Tarantino films they certainly don't need my recommendation to see this. To someone that maybe isn't up on his style, this recommendation comes with an asterisk. It's violent, slow at times, and feels mostly excessive. If you don't mind or at least can deal with those aspects, watching the film for Christoph Waltz's performance is worth the price. Same goes with Inglourious Basterds where Waltz is worth sitting through an otherwise ho-hum feature for.