Title: Django Unchained
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Release Date: 2012
In Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino puts his stamp on the western genre. This film follows Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave turned bounty-hunter, attempt to rescue his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), also a slave, from a cruel plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Django is trained and assisted by the dentist turned bounty-hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz).
Schultz is seeking a slave who knows what his next bounty looks like, a trio of overseer brothers. Django knows what these men look like all to well. Armed with this knowledge, Django becomes the bounty hunter’s companion. As they travel, Django shares his history with Schultz. He tells Schultz that he and his wife tried to run away from their owners, but were captured, branded as runaways, and sold separately to new owners. Django mentions that his wife’s name is Broomhilda, reminded of a boyhood story of Sigfried and the dragon, Schultz, empathetic to Django’s story, proposes that Django become his associate for the winter and at the end of the season Schultz will help Django track down and free his wife. Django agrees and their quest begins.
Throughout the film, Schultz is clearly repulsed by slavery and how slaves are treated at the hands of their masters. Schultz appears to personify European sensibility. This puts the well-spoken, highly-educated Schultz in stark contrast with virtually every American he comes in contact with. Americans are depicted as being inept, slack-jawed, and insatiable consumers of violence. While it may be easy to see why the criticism of American backwardness is applicable in 1858 America, it may also be just as applicable today. The not-so-subtle criticism found in the film is softened with plentiful, well executed humor. One example is the wagon driven by Schultz that has a large tooth mounted onto the roof with a large spring. The effect is a tooth that bounces all over the place as the wagon moves; a stack injection of Cheech and Chong style comedy sandwiched between old-west shoot-outs.
As with other Tarantino films, Django Unchained has plenty of gratuitous violence, much of which reaches the level of comedy; people going airborne when shot with a pistol and unrealistic amounts of blood splatter from gunshot wounds are just a couple of examples. The violence can be overwhelming at times even for the seasoned action-movie viewer. However, there is a purpose for this variety of violence; it demonstrates the brutal treatment many slaves endured and, though shocking at times, it actually adds to the movie’s plot.
Also characteristic of his films, Tarantino is able to pull together a high quality ensemble cast that works well together and he is able to coax out some of their best acting. Indeed, it’s hard to decide which star performs best because each performance is nearly equal quality. That being said, both Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio put up amazing performances that rank right up with their career best.
Django Unchained is another triumph by Tarantino. His latest endeavor ranks right up with Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Bastards. As long as one has a strong stomach and doesn’t mind hearing the word “nigger” (within context), then this is a movie not to be missed.