Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Django Unchained (2012) is too long (revised)

I’m kind of puzzled by the critical love of Tarantino’s Django Unchained. I’m really wondering what version of the film anyone attaching great significance to the film saw. The version I saw was a wildly over long, overly talky film that could be shone of anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes without much loss. Yes I do like the film but even as I was laughing at sequences that could be cut, such as the one about eye holes in the raiders masks, I was mumbling that the film needs to speed things up.

The story of a German bounty hunter who buys Django to help him find three fugitives and eventually Django’s wife is a pure Hollywood concoction. It is pure exploitation trash in the Mandingo mold with enough hat tips to the horrors of slavery that it can kind of deflect the claims of racism. It’s one of those movies that uses the horrors of slavery to sell tickets while at the same time claiming to be against them. It’s also historically inaccurate, from the Winchester 73 rifle to the language of the dialog to the hip TV western clothes and so forth. This isn’t reality and anyone taking it as such, like say Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, should have their heads examined. (If you want a more accurate depiction see Goodbye Uncle Tom)

While I could nitpick the film to death, which it doesn’t deserve, I will talk about the two things that made the film not work for me.

First is the out front Hollywoodness of much of the film. These are big stars dressing up and not characters. No one is really a real person. Everyone is an archetype and a cliché and they are played to the hilt. On many level it’s great fun, especially Christoph Waltz’s uber-clever King Shultz, but at the same time it kept me distant. Think about the dialog and the exchanges, they are note perfect, exactly like most Tarantino’s writing, which means it’s damn clever, damn funny but completely unreal (and TV comedy like). The only thing in the film that didn’t strike me as Hollywood is the gun violence which seems appropriately bloody and gory.

The other problem as far as I’m concerned , and the real killer, is the length and the pacing. Simply put this film never freaking ends.

Tarantino loves his digressions and endless witty dialog so he take every opportunity to allow his characters to talk and talk and talk. The dialog is crisp and on target but there is way too much of it. This isn’t a stage play, this is a moving picture. and the way the film is put together all the action stops so Tarantino's characters can chatter at each other.  When the talk, occasionally, stops the violence starts. For me the jarring nature of the violent explosions isn’t so much their nastiness rather it’s that I was frequently lulled into near unconsciousness by the talking and when the shooting started I was shocked awake.

All the talk results in the dramatic thrust of the story constantly spinning its wheels as characters prattle on. Sure it’s great if you just want to listen to the dialog, but if you want a bit more, like like a real plot to fill three hours look elsewhere. To me the film being little more than people sitting in rooms verbally sparring with the result sequences just go on and on.

To be honest by the time we got to the introduction of Leonardo DiCaprio I was starting to get bored and then by the dinner scene I was largely done. The explosion of violence that followed was a welcome respite… and had the film ended darkly with the torture sequence I would have respected the film greatly, however because this is a Tarantino revenge drama the film still has 30 rambling minutes to go as Django becomes superman and ridiculously gets his revenge on everyone in a sequence that is just the wrong sort of silly.

To my way of thinking if you chopped the last 30 minutes out (they belong in another film) and another 15 minutes in the rest of the film and you’d have a great film, as it stands now it’s just a good one.


  1. i completely agree with your final analysis. this was a good film until the last 30 minutes. by then the movie had run out of gas and just became silly/stupid. tarantino's cameo was unnecessary. he may have peaked as a film maker with Inglorious Basterds.

  2. I agree with the both of you. I think he is really missing an editor, or, one that can stand up to him perhaps?