Lincoln and Django Unchained: two very different approaches to a thorny subject

Lincoln and Django Unchained: two very different approaches to a thorny subject

by The Kent film blog, by Lewis Dyson Tuesday, February 5 2013

 

This year's Oscars features two nominees in the best picture category that are about slavery: Lincoln and Django Unchained

The one that probably stands a better chance of winning the judges' votes is Lincoln, not because it is a better film but because it ticks all of the requisite boxes. World-class actor, check. Worthy subject matter, check. Steven Spielberg, check.

I thought it was really well made and it was reverential to Abe Lincoln without being patronising, which is to its credit.

The best thing about it is without a doubt Daniel Day-Lewis' performance that is utterly convincing. I have never seen the man put a foot wrong, but then I have never seen Nine.

Overall the film is just what you would expect from arguably the best director of the past four decades teaming up with someone who is widely acknowledged as the greatest living screen actor. By that I mean it is near perfect and it is difficult to find fault but at the same time, it doesn't re-invent cinema. 

It looks beautiful, the sets are brilliant, and there are good performances all round. It is a team of people who are at the top of their craft making a film. It is like watching a master baker making a really nice cake, using all of the ingredients you expect. It comes out really tasty as you would expect but someone else might have added something completely different, like chili flakes but it's not that type of film.

Other directors might have been tempted to spice it up - anyone expecting Saving Private Ryan in the American Civil War will be disappointed. Instead it focuses on the politics. The script will either draw you in or bore the hell out of you. Luckily I think it's absorbing enough to hold your attention for the two-and-a-half hour length.

In summary you can't criticise it because it is near faultless, but you could argue it is only that way because it steers so close to the mark.

And then there's Django Unchained...

 

Quentin Tarantino's latest offering takes the same approach to historical accuracy as Inglourious Basterds and they are both incredibly similar to each other. They are both revenge fantasies of ethnic groups who have suffered great atrocities. But Tarantino handles this subject matter with the sensitivity of a Frankie Boyle.

Rather than making something preachy dealing with slavery head-on, the issue is used as a tool to make the audience feel all the more intensely. No one is going to go into this film thinking slavery is a good thing so it's an effective way of turning feeling you get rooting for the good guy Django (Jamie Foxx) and hating the bad guy (Leonardo DiCaprio) all the way to 11. Plus no one does violence like Tarantino and this doesn't disappoint with bucket loads of blood flying across the screen. 

The casual use of the N-bomb and the general way slavery is depicted is enough to incense anyone but, if a film can make you feel anything then it is doing its job.

Two very good films but in two very different ways.


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The Kent film blog, by Lewis Dyson

 

Hi, my name is Lewis Dyson and I love everything to do with films.

I will be posting reviews, thoughts, comments and ramblings on the big releases and some stuff on local film-making.

www.wilhelmspleen.wordpress.com

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