Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Django Unchained

Directed by Quentin Tarantino.
2012. Rated R, 165 minutes.
Jamie Foxx
Christoph Waltz
Leonardo DiCaprio
Samuel L. Jackson
Kerry Washington
Don Johnson
Walton Goggins
Dennis Christopher
James Remar
Michael Parks
Dana Michelle Gourrier
Jonah Hill
Bruce Dern
Tom Wopat
Quentin Tarantino

Bounty hunter, and native German, Schultz (Waltz) rescues a slave named Django (Foxx) from captivity. He only does so because he believes Django can help him find the outlaws he’s looking for. Being the enlightened sort, he doesn’t treat Django like a slave and the two develop a friendship. Django also has a plan of his own. He convinces the German to help him save his wife Broomhilda (Washington), whom he was forcefully separated from after the two made a failed runaway attempt. The long, hard road back to the love of his life ensues.

Taking another cue from the Blaxploitation era, director Quentin Tarantino wraps this tale about the barbaric ways of slavery in spaghetti western garb. To drive it forward, we get a screenplay chock full of sharp, often funny, often stinging dialogue. Django continues the director’s tradition of creating great tension through words. This one has more action between conversations than his normal fare, but the relationship between the two dynamics remains the same. Dialogue, complete with dramatic pauses, creates tension, action releases it. For all the blood spurting on display, nothing is so effective in the movie than at several points when we merely think something heinous is about to happen. This is when we’re intrinsically drawn to the edge of our seat while simultaneously trying to sink backwards into the thing. It is at these moments when Django is at its best.

As usual, to help him put the viewer in a quandary he gets great work from his cast. Christoph Waltz switches sides of the coin, going from playing the unapologetic villain in Inglourious Basterds to a kinder, gentler man in Django, albeit one still capable of mowing down whoever stands in his way. He gives a moustache twirlingly fun performance. No less is turned in by Leonardo DiCaprio as a charming but ruthless slave-owner heavily involved in the “sport” of mandingo fighting. Basically, it’s cock-fighting using slaves. In the title role, Jamie Foxx is also excellent. However, he spends the first half of the movie mostly standing around while others advance the plot. His character has bursts of activity here and there early on, but comes to life for good about the time we meet DiCaprio’s character. Shortly after this starts the portrayal I thought was best of all in a movie filled with great ones, that of Samuel L. Jackson. His character is funny, conniving, deliciously evil, and perhaps the smartest person in the movie. More than that, every word he says, every movement of his body and shift of his eyes feels true. It’s nothing less than masterful.

There is some debate about whether or not Django should be docked for its historical accuracy, or lack thereof. Anyone coming into this expecting a history lesson obviously didn’t see, or didn’t like, the director’s previous effort Inglourious Basterds. For those not in the know, that is a World War II movie that has little in common with what actually happened besides the fact that Nazis killed Jews. Like that picture, Django is more interested in getting the attitudes of the times right than the facts and even indulging the most violent fantasies of history’s victims. Sure, this requires some revisionist (or purely imagined) history but a Quentin Tarantino movie is not a fact-finding mission. Both films combines enough real history to remind us how terrible it is with contemporary sensibilities and uses this as a springboard to thrust us into enthralling fiction.


  1. I do love this film as I think it is a fine fucking western. It has everything I wanted and more. I just wished the screening I went to wasn't a disaster where more than 2 hours into the film, it fucking stopped. Myself and the audience had to wait 20 minutes for the projector to be re-booted and shit. I got a free pass out of it but that ruined the experience for me.

    1. It's a great western. Sorry to hear about the screening, though. That sucks.

  2. A brilliant film. I think QT's work here was better even than in Inglourious Basterds, another film of his I think is terrific. Nice review, bud.

    1. I also think this is better than Inglourious Basterds. Both are brilliant, though. Thanks.

  3. Really liked the film apart from the last half an hour. Just felt it went on too long at the end. Otherwise loved the energy and flair you expect with Tarantino. And what performances. Some great humour too.

    1. I could see that, it does stretch out to 2 hrs & 45 minutes. It all worked for me, though. Those great performances certainly helped.

  4. Samuel L. Jackson was ROBBED of an Oscar nom for this. Frankly, he probably should have WON. Just brilliant.

    1. I completely agree. I gave him the win in my 2012 Dellies.


  5. It's an entertaining western, and like you, I was kept on edge of my seat. However I also think Tarantino seems to be repeating himself a bit. The revenge aspect from Kill Bill. Christoph Waltz is great but is essentially repeating his well-spoken character from Inglourious Basterds

    1. I could see that. There are definitely similarities in our hero's motivation. Waltz's character is similarly verbose, however, he does play this one without the sinister sneer. For me, that makes a big difference.