¨Gentlemen, you had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.¨
I am a huge Quentin Tarantino fan and enjoy his movies very much so I had huge expectations for this film and I wasn’t disappointed. Django Unchained is one of the top five best films of the year and deserves all the awards it has been receiving. Is this Tarantino’s best work? No it isn’t, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a fun film to watch. It has several flaws; the movie feels messy and a little overlong at times with some editing issues, but the story is just so fun that it’s worth it. Inspired by the Spaghetti westerns that Tarantino grew up watching, he pays homage to those films with Django Unchained. Just like those spaghetti westerns ended up reinventing a genre that was dying, in a way Tarantino has reinvented a genre now that had been long forgotten. We’ve seen very few westerns come out in the last decade (my favorites being 3:10 to Yuma and True Grit), but none as gritty and dark like this one. It is a western mixed with Tarantino’s classic dark and violent trademarks. Tarantino actually defines this film more a southern than a western considering it takes place in the South pre Civil War era, and it truly is worth the watch. Django Unchained has some great performances as well; it was a surprise to see Leonardo DiCaprio playing such a vicious and ruthless role, Samuel Jackson also nails his role as DiCaprio’s adviser, Foxx takes a while to settle in the lead role but he does deliver halfway through the film, and then there was Christoph Waltz who was the highlight of the film for me. Waltz had already surprised film lovers with his Oscar winning performance in Inglorious Basterds, and here he surprises us once again although this time playing the hero instead of the villain. In my opinion his character carries this movie and shouldn’t even be considered as the supporting character, but rather the leading one. He is a delight to watch on screen and is truly magnificent. Who would have thought that he could play such a likeable character after seeing him in the despicable and vicious role in Tarantino’s previous movie?
This is one of Tarantino’s most straightforward films with hardly any flashbacks, and it isn’t divided into chapters either like his other movies. The story opens somewhere in Texas during the pre-civil war era where we see Django (Jamie Foxx) being carried off in chains towards a slave market along with some other folks. They are interrupted by a former dentist, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), who has come to free Django. He is very much against slavery and racial segregation, so he buys Django his freedom with the condition that he help him find three brothers who are wanted men, and only Django has seen their faces. Schultz isn’t working as a dentist; he has found a much more profitable living as a bounty hunter so he teams up with Django who is more than willing to help find these men who abused his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) and sold her to a ruthless plantation owner down in Mississippi known as Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Django and Schultz become such good friends that they become partners in the bounty business and later the Dr. agrees to help Django on his quest to free his wife from Candie. It won’t be an easy task so they have to come up with a plan first, but Schultz is so inspired by Django’s love for his wife that he agrees to help him. In Candie’s gigantic residence we are introduced to some new characters such as his loyal adviser, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) who is in charge of all the slaves and household duties, and several other employees of Candie. One thing is for sure, freeing Broomhilda from all these men won’t be an easy task.
My major complain (although it really is a minor one because I did love this film) is that it runs a bit too long. I thought the climax was reaching its highest point at least 30 minutes before the ending, and it did hurt the movie a bit that it extended itself. Tarantino is a master at creating tension and suspense, and he does it once again here, but he could have ended the film there instead of including another act where he has a small role as an Australian that just doesn’t work. The film is very violent, but Tarantino always finds a way to make you laugh (a task that isn’t easy) with a smart and inventive script. Racial abuse is pointed out here in a very strong way similar to when Tarantino showed the Nazi’s abusing the Jews in Inglorious Basterds. The excess in racial abuse is very clear and can be hard to watch for some, but it has a powerful effect, especially thanks to DiCaprio’s portrayal as the vicious and abusive slave owner. The real star of the film however is Christoph Waltz who really makes this film a lot more fun. It was one of my favorite performances of the year. Django Unchained may have just reinvented the western genre altogether with this inventive Tarantino script. The ending might be pretty predictable for a Tarantino fan, but the entire ride was just so exciting and such a fun experience. I agree with what A.O. Scott said about the film: ¨It is digressive, jokey, giddily brutal and ferociously profane. But it is also a troubling and important movie about slavery and racism.¨ This is one of the most entertaining movies of the year, but it could be divisive for some.