I bow down to Quentin Tarantino for having given us some of the best movies I’ve ever seen and some of my favorites such as ‘Inglourious Basterds’, ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2’ just to name a few and now comes ‘Django Unchained’ also written and directed by the master himself. This one has his name written all over it and it belongs in this category. To take on the subject of slavery is not an easy task, Tarantino gets around it by concentrating more on a love story, which is what drives the main character; but he does touch upon the brutality of it while not really depressing us with the subject. In fact there’s a lot of comedy, which keeps the film light hearted. While the 165 minutes duration might not be attractive to many, the director’s fan base will be in all the way and will be highly rewarded for it. I encourage everyone to oversee the longevity of it, because thanks to that we get a well played out film that is not rushed. To summarize my point it has been three years since the last Tarantino film and this one makes up for the wait, it’s in line with what we’ve come to expect from him and will remind us why we idolize him.
Set in the South of the United States during slavery in 1858 two years before the civil war, we meet Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave that gets some training from German bounty hunter Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Django’s only dream is to be reunited with his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), with the help from his mentor they go on to look for the woman only to encounter a mighty obstacle, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) the owner of an infamous plantation called “Candyland”.
Waltz is phenomenal and easily carries more than the first half of the film, his eloquence once more is magnificent as is his performance and I’m happy to see him in a role as one of the “good guys”, where we as an audience can actually like him. He certainly is my favorite part of the film. Foxx takes the backseat for a while there, which is understandable seeing how his character goes through a transformation and once he does, oh boy Django or better yet Foxx is unstoppable. DiCaprio as a bad guy?! Yes please! He’s exceptional and is not a pretty boy anymore but a brutal, elegant, aristocratic man who’s used to getting his way.
There are a couple of great cameos in the film one of the best ones is Don Johnson with his character of Big Daddy, owner of the Evergreen Plantation. This was one of the biggest plantations in the South, which is now a historic landmark, and I’m sure a very depressing site to visit, which Foxx himself felt on seeing the slave quarters. Here, thankfully Johnson’s bit with Jonah Hill provides comedic relief in a violent situation. The best surprise comes from Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, Candie’s Butler. The make up work on him is unbelievable, but his character is hilarious and dislikable all at once, everything he does with it is brilliant.
There’s a lot of humor in this film, which for this kind of subject one would think it would be difficult to intertwine the two, but Tarantino does it effortlessly, not only is it given to us in the form of dialogues but with attire, props, it’s all around us even in some of the violent scenes. Because of this the movie never gets heavy, although there certainly are a handful of extremely violent and difficult scenes to watch. There’s even beauty in some of the death scenes, Tarantino believes in the magic of effects being crated without CGI and he’s able to create many magical moments.
The film was shot in various locations, among them Grand Teton and these beautiful, majestic winter sceneries give a great contrast to the ones in the South in the plantations. Tarantino exposes some interesting things about slavery, in the case of Candie he takes slavery back to the way many Romans treated it by having their slaves be gladiators; it was an interesting juxtaposition. Tarantinto punches these slave owners with words, best put in the mouth of well-spoken Waltz. The music also gives it a light heartedness and pushes that western feel that the director wanted to give the film.
I do wish that the main character wouldn’t be as selfish, he’s not out to end slavery but he’s only out to save himself and his woman and that holds back the story for me. However, this does give it a higher focus otherwise we would probably get a four-hour film and a different movie. Tarantino says it took him ten years to write this picture and being a fan of westerns decided to make one as he believes they are a good depiction of good and evil and that clearly comes out in this one.
The look of the film as a western, along with the heavy subject treated with comedy, violence and beauty make for quite an entertaining movie. Any one that has ever enjoyed Tarantino’s work will without a doubt enjoy this one. For those that aren’t too familiar with him the main thing I can tell you is that this director doesn’t hold back when it comes to violence and for any of his films you have to expect it because it is always there especially in the form of blood. This is not a film for the squeamish, but for those that can take it I recommend it for its originality, laughs and amazing performances.