Writer/Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
I had a feeling after I saw the vintage studio logo and the opening credit sequence that I was going to love the latest cinematic achievement from Quentin Tarantino. The year is 1858, two years before the Civil War. A group of slaves is chained up walking through the woods with two of their masters, The Speck Brothers. Django (Foxx) is one of the many slaves in the chain. A mysterious cart and horse approaches them and Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) steps out claiming he is interested in purchasing Django. A violent yet hilarious gunfight ensues. Dr. Schultz shoots one of the brothers and leaves another one injured and stuck under his dead horse. Dr. Schultz unchains Django and convinces him to join him. The other slaves are freed and get their revenge on the Speck brother that is stuck under the horse. After this opening gunfight, you get an idea of the style of violence the rest of the movie has in store.
Dr. Schultz explains to Django that he freed him as he has connections to the Brittle Brothers. He further explains that he is a bounty hunter and there is a price to be had for the death of the Brittle brothers as they are brutal killers. Django decides to help Dr. Schultz in exchange for him to be freed from slavery and for Dr. Schultz’s help to find his wife Broomhilda (Washington) who was separated from Django in a slave trade. An agreement has been made and they set off to track down the Brittle brothers. They quickly hunt them down and they shoot them on the plantation of Big Daddy (Don Johnson). Dr. Schultz witnesses Django’s uncanny abilities with a gun.
The two of them carry on with their bounty hunting and learn that Broomhilda is being held as a slave in the arms of Calvin Candie (DiCaprio). His plantation is aptly titled, Candyland. Every slave has heard of the infamous Calvin Candie. The male slaves are trained to be fighters while the women are prostitutes. The two devise a plan to pretend to be purchasers of a fighter in order to reach Broomhilda. Eyes and heads turn as both Django and Dr. Schultz arrive on horse and appear to be of the same status. Further suspicion looms in the air for Django as Calvin’s top slave and attendant Stephen (Jackson) suspects that Broomhilda and Django may be married.
If you have seen any of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, you know what to expect. He always has a clear vision and style that is unlike any other director. You can watch any Tarantino movie and know that he made it even if you did not see his name in the credits. You can expect extreme amounts of profanity, copious amounts of blood, violence, and unforgettable characters. His style is not for everyone. I always appreciate his unapologetic route at making a movie. Nothing ever seems off the table for him. The “N” word is continually used throughout the movie. While many filmmakers would forbid the word to be used in a script, Tarantino uses it as it was part of the vernacular at the time. Revenge is used in many of his films like Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds, and now Django Unchained. The extremely violent and bloody scenes against the antagonists are so over-the-top that they turn artistic to make a point.
So much of the movie’s success comes from the script he wrote. Tarantino is a massive film buff and historian and uses the idea of the old spaghetti westerns as the backdrop of the story. The rich dialogue gives each one of the actors so much to work with to make them unique and unforgettable characters. Christoph Waltz’s first scene is hysterical. He has a way of writing such dark comedy into some of the more violent and intense moments of the movie. Veteran Tarantino actor Samuel L. Jackson gives one of his best performances in a long time. The Academy has long ignored Leonardo DiCaprio even though he continues to give top-notch performances. I expect him or Waltz to be given a nomination.
Django Unchained ranks up there as one of Tarantino’s best. It has all of those typical Tarantino ingredients that make for one hell of a rollercoaster ride. The movie is violent, but never gratuitous or obnoxious. The language can be jarring to the ears but it true to the time period. It is intense and insane, but entertaining all at the same time. The movie is very long. While I was never bored, it could stand to have a few cuts and edits without doing damage to the story. Whenever I walk out of a Tarantino movie there are images and shots that get stuck in my head. Some of the music and score sit with me as well. Django Unchained is no exception and is one of the best movies of 2012.
RATING: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)