Do you like seeing white people get what they deserve? Then this movie is for you.
Django Unchained is writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s 8th movie. To call it a western or spaghetti western would be an injustice. It’s the same way that Inglorious Basterds is a “war” movie yet none of the movie takes place on the front lines. The western setting is merely a framework for what Tarantino does best, a cold blooded tale of revenge. This time wrapped in slavery, injustice and designed for moral uncomfortability.
The story is fairly simple. Just before the Civil War, bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is seeking out three slave owners that are wanted by the government. Not knowing what they look like, he needs the help of someone who does. He finds that in the form of a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx). After acquiring him the two set off with a deal in place. Django assists Schultz as a bounty hunter in exchange for his freedom. Along the way they find out that Django’s wife is located in the heart of Candy Land, a plantation run by the charismatic southern gentleman, Calvin Candie (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio).
This might be Tarantino’s most straight forward movie to date. Its 2 hour and 45 minute running time can roughly be split into three sections. The first is Django and Schultz’s adventures in bounty hunting. This portion is almost an odd couple esque buddy picture as we get to know the two characters. Stylistically, it reminded me a lot of the 1956 John Ford western, The Searchers. Two men with an uneasy alliance hell bent to succeed on their mission together, filmed with lots of wide open natural spaces and landscapes.
The second section involves their arrival at Candy Land and their introduction to Calvin Candie and the third is the “revenge” portion and conclusion of the movie.
Django Unchained (as with most Tarantino flicks) looks beautiful, the colors in his films always pop out. It’s soundtrack juxtaposes modern songs with traditional spaghetti western instrumentals by Ennico Maccione, legendary composer of Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name Trilogy (whom also composed for Kill Bill). These tracks conjure up the fevered dusty swell of western towns and fit perfectly when used. Tarantino’s trademark over the top bloody, cartoonish violence is abundant here, especially in the last section of the film. The entire movie is violent, it never gets to the level of Kill Bill Vol. 1 but the end definitely takes a step up from the rest of the movie.
Praise should be heaped upon Christoph Waltz as the charismatic bounty hunter, King Schultz who is half slippery snake oil salesman and half cold calculating killer. After his mesmerizing performance in Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino would have been a fool to not use him again. He does such a great job making his characters so likable. Who would have thought you could say that about a character named the Jew Hunter? I don’t know, but he pulls it off somehow. Leonadro DiCaprio as Calvin Candie also deserves to be singled out. DiCaprio has come a long way and has proven himself time and time again in recent years that he is capable of playing roles that are counter to his boyish good looks. He is especially wicked as a southern plantation owner with high pedigree and low morals. Jamie Foxx succeeds as the title character, but nothing more. He does the job well enough, but there is something missing to his performance that I just can’t put my finger on.
If you’re a fan of Tarantino than you already have an idea what you’re getting into. You won’t be let down by Django Unchained. Someone who is only a fan of the western genre might want to avoid this movie. Chances are, it’s not going to be what you are looking for. How does it measure up to the rest of QT’s movie empire? Well it’s not his best, but it’s very entertaining. I’d put it somewhere in the middle, it’s solid and enjoyable. As of the writing of this review, I’ve only seen it once. Most new movies that I like I try to see twice, I tend to get more out of it the second time around. My feelings might change after I see it again. But if your interest has been peaked, go and check it out. There is nothing out like this right now, hell I don’t think there has ever been another movie like this period.
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