Django Unchained (UK - BD)
Chris takes a belated look at the most recent movie from Quentin Tarantino...
Django is a freed slave, who, under the tutelage of a German bounty hunter, becomes a bad-ass bounty hunter himself. After taking down some bad guys for profit, they track down Django's slave wife and liberate her from an evil plantation owner. (Taken from the PR.)
Right, so this one is more than a little late. However, I am not entirely to blame. I originally requested a review copy on the 14th of March and repeated my request on the 7th of May, and then again on the 17th of May when I noticed reviews popping up on other sites. I was told stock was limited and that more would be arriving soon, and our copy eventually arrived on the 30th of May, some ten days after the release date. Of course I then actually had to find time to watch the film and the bonus material, all of which conspired to make this review much later than anticipated. In light of this I'm not going to review the film in any great detail, but instead I'm going to point you to Gabe Powers' US review in which he talks about the film at great length. You can find a link to Gabe's review in the 'links' section at the bottom of this page. Anyway, with that out of the way let's move on to the technical stuff.
Django Unchained arrives with a 2.40:1 (1080/24p AVC) widescreen image that looks as good as any new release I've seen. Shot on traditional film stock rather than digitally, there's a pleasing level of grain on show throughout that occasionally spikes during the flashback sequences, but it is never distracting. Detail is uniformly impressive, showcasing not only the wonderful cinematography, but also the costume and set design. With the majority of the exterior sequences taking place in the deep South you'd rightly expect a correspondingly warm colour scheme. However, the few sequences that take place in small towns or frozen mountains are rendered with earthen tones and cool blues respectively. Black levels are impressive, particularly during interior shots towards the end of the film when candlelight provides the only illumination, and while whites occasionally bloom it would appear to be intentional. The entire presentation is very clean, without a hint of artefacts (film or otherwise), making for a very pleasing visual experience. I don't think it's worth labouring the point any further; I'll simply allow the screen captures to speak for themselves.
As I'm running late with this review I'm not going to devote too much space to dissecting the aural aspects of the presentation, but I will say that the sumptuous visuals are accompanied by a robust DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that offers plenty of dynamism. The are many ambient/environmental effects to set the mood during the quieter scenes, while the action sequences offer up some nice LFE in the form of gunshots and explosions of the sort that could have you reaching for the volume control. While not the most active track I've ever heard, directionality and separation are well-handled and at no point did I feel like any one element was competing with the others for recognition. Even dialogue is well-prioritised, which isn't something I have been able to say about a number of recent high-profile releases. As per usual the musical score is an eclectic mix of contemporary music and classic genre pieces, but unlike Ennio Morricone - the composer recently made some less than flattering comments about Tarantino's placement of music - I've always been a big fan of the cues the director chooses for his films and the way in which it is used as a narrative device. This feature is no different, even if I'm not familiar with all of the references to classic spaghetti westerns. All things considered, this is a very strong audio effort.
As with the home video releases of most of Tarantino's films, only a modest collection of bonus material is provided. Here's a brief summary of what you can expect to find.
- Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of Django Unchained: A brief featurette dedicated to the memory of the late productiond designer, who passed away during the film's production.
- Reimagining the Spaghetti Western: The Horses & Stunts of Django Unchained: Another short featurette that examines the film's stunt-work and includes interview footage with Tarantino and stunt co-ordinator Jeff Dashnaw. Apparently no horses were harmed during the making of this film.
- The Costume Designs of Sharen Davis: This featurette focusses on the varied costumes and includes cast and crew interviews.
- 20 Years In The Making: The Tarantino XX Blu-ray Collection: A promotional trailer for the Tarantino boxed set.
- Django Unchained Soundtrack Promo: As the name implies, this is a short promo for the soundtrack album.
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy: A version of the film that you can access from the Cloud or download to a portable device.
Racially aggravated profanity aside, Django Unchained shares more in common with Inglorious Basterds and Jackie Brown than it does any of Tarantino's other work, at least tonally. As much as I love the raw energy of Reservoir Dogs, the super-cool dialogue of Pulp Fiction and even the excesses of Kill Bill and Grindhouse, I'm happy that Tarantino has chosen to make more 'sedate' films (if that's the correct word) in recent years. It probably sounds odd to read such a word use when referring to a spaghetti western/blaxploitation fusion, but the lackadaisical pacing really works in the film's favour and although it is a long feature I couldn't think of a single scene that I'd cut. Technically the disc hits it out of the park with a tremendously strong audio-visual presentation, and while the extras are a little lightweight I've come to expect that from Tarantino movies. Even so, this is a must-buy title for QT fans and come highly recommended to everyone else.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 20th May 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 German, Dolby Digital 5.1 Turkish, Audio Descriptive 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, English HoH, German, Hindi Turkish
Extras: Featurettes, Promos, Ultraviolet Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Michael Parks, Don Johnson
Length: 165 minutes
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