I know Quentin Tarantino tends to make the same movie over and over again, but damn does he do it well.
Django Unchained is a spaghetti Western revenge story set in the pre-Civil War South. A slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) is freed by and becomes partners with a German bounty hunter by the name of King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). The two spend a winter catching bounties and formulating a plan to save Django’s wife, Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington).
The entire plot involves a lot of revenge violence, much like Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds. Here it is directed at slaveowners instead of assassins and Nazis, but it’s just as satisfying. Tarantino rarely does gray areas when it comes to his villains, so I didn’t feel bad at all watching these horrible racists get what they deserve.
The one gray area that is explored is the character of King Schultz. Although his bounties are murderers, even Django seems conflicted at times regarding this profession, especially when Schultz has no problem killing a man in front of his son. Then after helping Django locate his wife and buy her freedom, he basically sabotages the entire deal just because he doesn’t like the slaveowner. Fair enough, the guy was a douche, but Shultz puts his own interests above a promise he made to his friend and jeopardizes Django and Broomhilda’s safety in the process. He’s a complicated character, which is something often lacking from Tarantino’s universe.
While most of the characters are one dimensional, an excellent cast helps them rise above complete cartoonishness (some cartoonishness is to be expected in Tarantino’s films). Foxx, Waltz, and Washington are great, though Washington feels underused. She’s a stock “damsel in distress,” but I can forgive Tarantino for this because he’s given us so many kick ass female characters in the past. Jonah Hill and Don Johnson (yes, of Miami Vice fame) have small but funny cameos as members of a lynch mob, and Samuel L. Jackson appears as an “Uncle Tom” house slave.
All of these actors give great performances, but they are all overshadowed by Leonardo DiCaprio. When I first heard that DiCaprio was doing a Quentin Tarantino movie I was genuinely shocked and confused. This is so different than anything he’s ever done, I just couldn’t figure out how he was going to fit into this style of film. But not only does he fit, he shines as the cruel slaveowner Calvin Candie. I was riveted by his performance, all the while anxiously awaiting his much deserved demise. DiCaprio’s performance here is a glimpse of the greatness he achieved just a year later in The Wolf of Wall Street. Seriously, where is this man’s Oscar?
This is my favourite Tarantino film. He has a very distinctive style and it is perfected in this homage to spaghetti Westerns. It is funny, but still a gritty film to watch, especially when it deals with the rampant slavery that was common during this era.
Jamie Foxx plays the titular Django, a slave hired by a bounty hunter, King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to help him catch some criminal brothers that nobody has seen their faces except for him. They spend the next winter hunting down bounties until Django decides to find his wife and free her from slavery. Django and Schultz find her new owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and attempt to rescue her.
This is a great film. The acting in it is fantastic, the whole cast has rarely been better. DiCaprio is great, as usual, as the wicked slave owner Calvin Candie. He rarely plays someone as evil as this character and it is a role he excels at. He was originally uncomfortable performing this role because of all the racist remarks the character says, but Jamie Foxx and Samuel L Jackson took him aside and told him he needed to perform the role as he would have been back then. The pep talk obviously worked, DiCaprio is great. The treatment of some of the slaves is difficult to watch at times, but never enough to make it uncomfortable. I imagine this is how slaves were treated back then, if not much worse, so it was nice that Tarantino was able to stay true to the era he was representing.
I enjoyed this effort. You can tell Tarantino has a large affection for the Western genre and does a great job with this film. He has a certain visual style that is apparent in this film, while he is still able to pay his respects to the old Western films from the 50s and 60s.