Oscar-winning writer and director Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker who I’d deem as referential. A referential filmmaker is someone who pulls from or references elements from other films in a way to pay homage. Over the last twenty years, Tarantino has referenced films he admires through characterizations, narratives, and cinematic styles. In his latest film Django Unchained, Tarantino taps into the spaghetti western genre. Like he does best, Tarantino pays direct homage by re-introducing a character first introduced in 1966 in Sergio Corbucci’s cult-western Django.
Django in Corbucci’s film is an anti-hero who shows little emotion and expresses few words. He is driven by revenge and won’t stop until justice is served. It’s fitting material for Tarantino, a filmmaker who has a fixation on revenge-driven characters and narratives. With his Oscar-winning film Django Unchained; Tarantino puts a fresh spin on the character by adding a little bit more humanity to the character but remains fearless in revenge-fueled violence. This past December, Tarantino stirred audiences and critics with his controversial and relentless vision of revenge set in the 19th century American south.
We are first introduced to Tarantino’s Django (Jamie Foxx) as he and other slaves are being transported to a plantation. The scars on Django’s back and his expression of fear indicate that the damage has already been done and he has lived through an unimaginable hell. For all Django knows, he will never be free nor will he ever see his wife (Kerry Washington) again. A bounty hunter by the name of Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz) comes across the slaves and tries to bargain with the slave traders for Django. Schultz offers Django his freedom in exchange for his help to find the ruthless Brittle brothers.
Once they find and kill them, Schultz promises to help Django discover the location of his wife. The two of them become business partners as they track down different bounties. Schultz and Django’s journey leads them to Candyland, a slave plantation ran by the unpredictable Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). They soon discover that Django’s wife is one of the slaves in the plantation. The two come up with a plan to free her but their plans are viciously halted when Calvin Candie discovers their identities.
The film is largely successful due its cast. This time around, Tarantino rounded up an impressive cast that includes Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio. Jamie Foxx is perfect as Django. In Corbucci’s film Django, the character has little emotion and expresses very few words. Jamie Foxx portrays Django in a very similar way but eventually becomes his own entity as he and Schultz make their way to the plantations. Foxx’s Django compares to the original Django due to the fact that both are driven by revenge and when wronged, they don’t refrain from pulling the trigger. It’s this relentless violence that makes Django a sort of anti-hero in a sense but we can’t help but root for him as we follow him on his pursuit for justice.
This is the second time Christoph Waltz has worked with Tarantino (the first time for 2009’s Inglorious Basterds). After seeing this film, I’m not going to argue against the fact that he won his second Oscar for his performance as Dr. King Schultz. His performance in this film is a little bit more restraint than his performance in Inglorious Basterds but he continues to prove that he is a natural on screen. Leonardo DiCaprio blew me away by his performance as the sadistic Calvin Candie. The scene in the dining room near the third act of the film is easily the best scene in the entire film. I am still shocked to this day that DiCaprio didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for his performance. Samuel L. Jackson‘s performance as one of Calvin’s house slaves was over the top and cartoonish. I was put off by the performance during the first viewing but I think his character fits into the film, which is over the top itself. The one performance I cannot ignore is Quentin Tarantino‘s. To refresh your memory, he appeared near the end of the film with an atrocious faux australian accent. The whole cameo seemed off to me and the performance just made the whole scene worse.
Video (1080p HD 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio): Tarantino’s latest film is presented in a 1080p high-definition transfer. The southern landscapes are rich in clarity. The warm colors of the interiors and exteriors to the deep red of the substantial amount of blood pop on the screen. Flashback sequences are monochromatic and some scenes are purposefully manipulated which causes an immediate sense of distortion of the image. Overall, this is an impressive transfer that is defined.
Audio (DTS-HD Master Audio): In all of Tarantino’s films, there’s a great emphasis on dialogue and music. The mix of the two in Django Unchained is flawless. The audio levels are well balanced. The dialogue in the film is crisp and the audio during the action sequences is spectacular.
The special features provided on the Blu-ray of Django Unchained are presented in high-definition.
- Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of Django Unchained
- Reimagining The Spaghetti Western: The Horses & Stunts of Django Unchained
- The Costume Designs of Sharen Davis
- Tarantino XX Blu-Ray Collection Prom
- Django Unchained Soundtrack Promo
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
The special features are by far the weakest aspect of the Blu-ray disc. The lack of special features makes me wonder if there are plans to release another edition of the film that’s packed with more bonus content. The special features that are offered provides a brief glimpse into the production of the film in the feature “Reimagining The Spaghetti Western: The Horses & Stunts of Django Unchained”. As a random add-on, there’s a preview of Tarantino XX Blu-ray set that was released earlier this year. Overall, the special features are extremely disappointing. At the very least, an audio commentary track would’ve made up for the lack of special features.
Like many of his films, Tarantino’s vision is at times humorous and at other times dark. It’s the perfect balance of comedy and chaos that makes Django Unchained one of the most thrilling films of last year. Django Unchained is a blood-soaked film that is appropriately trademarked by Tarantino’s witticism and display of chaotic violence. One critic would probably say that they’re tired of his fixation with the revenge narrative. It’s true, Tarantino does like writing stories with characters motivated by revenge but his films are distinct enough due to his writing and his referential storytelling. Django Unchained works so well because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Despite its controversial subject matter, it sure is a lot of fun to watch. Remember, the D is silent.
Click here to purchase Django Unchained on Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet Digital Copy.
The Blu-ray was released on April 16th, 2013.