Django Unchained Review
Quentin Tarantino. The man is without a doubt one of the greatest filmmakers in contemporary cinema today. Ever since his debut with 1992’s brilliant ‘Reservoir Dogs’ he has disregarded traditional filmmaking styles, reinvented the crime genre in numerous ways, created iconic film characters, and even rewrote history. However, he’s never really had the chance to create the film he’s always wanted to create, that is, until now.
‘Django Unchained’ is the film Tarantino has been working towards his entire career. Prior to this, his other films always featured hints of spaghetti western or blaxploitation, but with this Tarantino goes full speed ahead and creates the hybrid film he’s always wanted to create. It should have been titled ‘Tarantino Unchained’. Mixing equal amounts of his trademark hyper-violence with his witty dialogue, Tarantino conjures up the best popcorn movie of the year, as he always does.
Similar to ‘Kill Bill’, Tarantino brings us along for another ride of revenge, this time set a few years before the start of the Civil War. While his WWII film, ‘Inglourious Basterds’, was an epic, globe-trotting adventure of bloody mayhem, Tarantino narrows the scale of his newest story by keeping it set within just a few locations. The film stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave who is freed by Dr. King Schultz, a German bounty hunter, played by the always fantastic Christoph Waltz. At the beginning of his adventure, Django is only on board because he can help Dr. Schultz identify 3 men he is hunting. But, as the two begin to bond, Schultz agrees that if Django aids him during the winter, he will help him rescue his wife from the infamous plantation owner, Calvin Candie.
The film has been unfairly criticized as unrealistic in its approach to slavery. The things Tarantino shows in the film (whippings, beatings, dog attacks, and brandings, to name a few) did indeed happen in the South, and quite often as we know from reading journal entries from the past. By showing these unspeakable acts that were committed against African Americans during the era of slavery, Tarantino evokes just enough emotion out of the audience for them to want revenge just as bad as Django does. Without the brutality, the audience wouldn’t be as involved in the film as we would have had he not shown it all, and we wouldn’t feel the same sense of personal satisfaction that’s given to us at the end of the film either.
Not only does Tarantino make sure the audience is involved in the film though, so do the actors. With every great film comes a great acting performance and in Django we don’t just get one good performance, we get a total of 5 GREAT performances. Appearing in nearly every scene in the film, Jamie Foxx is stunning as Django, and his chemistry with the great Christoph Waltz is explosive. Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington both sell their parts brilliantly; Sam Jackson as the loyal servant of Candie and Washington as the loyal wife of Django. However, it’s not until the half-way mark of the film that we witness its secret weapon: Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie. He commands the screen, even when he’s not on it, bringing a strangely disturbing realm into the already serious environment of its settings. There’s one monologue given by DiCaprio on phrenology that goes for nearly 5 minutes, and during that period of time you can just see him BECOME Calvin Candie. It’s scary.
‘Django Unchained’ is one of Tarantino’s most tame efforts, but still has his trademark style. It manages to range from being brilliant, to darkly frightening, to hilarious, to talky, to cartoonishly violent (and by that, I mean literally BUCKETS of blood being spewed everywhere in one of the film’s climactic shootouts). Basically it’s the essential Tarantino picture. This is the film we’ve all been waiting for from him, and he delivers greatly.
I give it a 9/10.