Blu-ray Review: Django Unchained



Django Unchained had a lot of controversy surrounding it since before it was even released, but that didn’t stop it from claiming two Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor & Best Original Screenplay), and garnering three other nominations, which included Best Picture. And boy did this film deserve all that praise and more.

Django Unchained is the latest film by writer/director Quentin Tarantino, and in my personal opinion, it’s arguably his best work to date. There’s just something about the western genre, and story in general that he captured so well that just makes the entire film fly by – even though it’s almost three hours in length. Now I’m not a fan of everything Tarantino has done, but with Django he did almost no wrong. What he did was create characters so interesting, and so engrossing that it’s easy to just want to sit back and listen to them talk, without a care in the world about when the action would pick back up again.

The story revolves around a German bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), who teams up with a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who he needs to help him locate his latest bounties, the Brittle brothers. In return for helping him, Schultz has promised Django his freedom, to which Django hesitantly agrees. After they locate the brothers, Schultz recruits Django as a bounty-hunting partner for the winter, over which he learns that Django’s lost love Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) was bought by the infamous slave owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and brought to the all-but-impenetrable “Candieland” plantation in Mississippi.

Schutz, who has grown to be friends with Django, agrees to help him rescue Broomhilda by infiltrating the plantation as someone interested in purchasing slaves to battle in Mandingo fights – something Calvin Candie takes great pride in being the best at. But really, putting the story into words doesn’t do it the justice it deserves, as it’s the characters and the way they’re written that really brings this film home.

Well, that’s not entirely true, as Tarantino really delivers on the visual front too. There are quite a few layers to Django Unchained, so that there’s always something to be taken in by and enamored with. There’s a reason the film won for best original screenplay, as it just flows so seamlessly together that it’s quite breathtaking.

There’s also some great use of modern day music, which include rapper Rick Ross amongst others, that really gives the film a unique feel that just works on every level. Foxx is brilliant as a beaten down slave who becomes a free man on a mission to save the love of his life, and the interaction he has with certain characters at times because he’s a free black man at this point in time are superbly done. Foxx really comes off as a badass as the film moves forward, and he only gets better as time goes on.

Of course, when talking about the acting you can’t not mention Waltz, who took home another Best Supporting Actor Oscar thanks to his work in a Tarantino film (his first was for his work in Inglourious Basterds). Waltz is mesmerizing, and his character is on par with Django for audience favourite, as the two really have a wonderful dynamic and play beautifully off of one another. Though the same can be said for pretty much every actor in this film, as they all bring their A-game, and they all do magnificent work.

If I had one complaint, it’d be that Tarantino felt the need to put himself in the movie in a way that pulls the viewer right out of the film – even if it is just momentarily. While he’s earned the right to do so, and he’s done it his entire career anyway, at least with Inglourious Basterds he kept it subtle and wasn’t right in the foreground. This time out, he shows up near the end of the second act at a time when viewers should be fully engrossed in the film, but instead it feels like the breaks are slightly tapped when he appears and you go, “Oh hey, there’s Tarantino.”

Talented actors such as Jamie Foxx can make it so the audience no longer sees Jamie Foxx on screen and instead see Django. That’s exactly how it feels at this point in the film where Tarantino just shows up and just slows the momentum down unnecessarily. Maybe that’s just me, and maybe fans of his loved the cameo, but personally I felt it took away more than it added and he would’ve been better off following what he did with Basterds and just placing himself in the background at one point or another. It’s not enough to hinder or ruin the film at all, but I felt it was a speed bump in an otherwise smooth drive.

So with that minor nitpick aside, Django Unchained is a must own film for anyone who loves movies. Granted, it’s quite violent, and the subject matter is definitely in the mature category; however, as long as that’s known and you can handle it, this is a must see masterpiece.

The audio and video transfer for the film is fantastic. The video transfer looks beautiful, with just beautiful, deep colours (which will never be more apparent than when you see Django’s new attire!) and rich, dark blacks. The audio is also spot-on, with the sound effects, mixes, music and dialogue all being top notch transfers that help bring this film to life in your living room.

Re-Imagining the Spaghetti Western: The Horses and Stunts of Django Unchained This feature runs at just under 14 minutes and sees Tarantino and stunt coordinator Jeff Dashnaw talk about working with horses on the film, and making sure audiences no that no animals were harmed while making the movie.

Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of Django Unchained This feature is just under 13 minutes in length and is a tribute to J. Michael Rvia, who passed away during the making of the film.

The Costume Designs of Sharon Davis – This feature is just over 12 minutes in length and talks about the outfits, designs and various costumes used in the film.

There’s also a promo for Tarantino’s Blu-ray collection, which is made to look like an actual featurette on the back of the case, even though it’s not even 90 seconds in length. There’s also a soundtrack promo as well, which is 22 seconds in length.

Aside from the lack of extras, Django Unchained is a must-buy Blu-ray that needs to be a part of your collection. It’s one of the best films of 2012, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to do so at your earliest convenience. Highest recommendation.

The Weinstein Company and Columbia Pictures present Django Unchained. Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, James Remar. Running time: 165 minutes. Rating: 18A. Released: April 16, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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