This is the one. Quentin Tarantino‘s latest film, Django Unchained is his masterpiece, soaked in blood and oozing with raw talent from the likes of Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio. Tarantino’s been on a roll as of late and Django is simply his best effort since the Jackie Brown/Pulp Fiction days. It’s a nearly three hour unforgettable roller-coaster ride that frequently stops to reveal impeccable writing, the harsh reality of slavery and the creation of one of the most powerful Tarantino characters to ever grace the screen. Django Unchained is an unparalleled piece of work that Tarantino should be very proud of.
Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave in an old and dark part of American history. A bounty hunter by the name of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) crosses paths with him over a search for some wanted men. The two make an agreement that leads Schultz to the men he seeks and Django to his freedom. After that a partnership is formed and a whole mess of killing follows.
What Schultz soon learns is that Django’s newly-granted freedom now gives him the realistic opportunity to search and find his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). The two were separated some time ago and all Django knows is that she’s on a slave plantation somewhere and that he’ll do whatever he can do get her back.
This is where Schultz’s specific set of skills comes into play. He offers his assistance in rescuing Broomhilda if Django promises to team-up with him for the winter. They use this long and cold winter to help Django sharpen his skills and by the time the spring rolls around Django becomes a full-fledged bounty hunter.
Now the two must head off to Candyland, a slave plantation owned by the young and rambunctious Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), with his right-hand help Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson). Candie is a foul and reprehensible being, but he’s got a weakness and Django and Schultz plan to use that as their way in. They disguise themselves as a couple of men looking to get into the slave fighting business and from that point they hope to acquire Broomhilda and make off without Candie even knowing their true intentions.
But this is a Tarantino picture and as you know the plans are almost never followed accordingly. Django and Schultz find themselves in an even bigger mess that is painted on the screen with lots of red by director Quentin Tarantino.
Django Unchained is easily his most violent film yet, but in doing so it becomes a statement for how horrible America was at one point. Not once does Tarantino glorify or go over-board when it comes to showing just how horribly slaves were treated during this time period. He captures these fragile moments with unique maturity and then he shows us the revenge the only way that he knows how, with lots of blood and gore and an extra-large helping of catchy and iconic dialogue.
Reading the script will give you goose bumps and watching it reenacted on the big screen will surely set you back a few feet. It’s that good and only made better by the likes of Waltz, DiCaprio, Foxx and yes even Jackson.
Christoph Waltz returns to that same level of reclusive intelligence that won him an Oscar in Inglourious Basterds. Schultz isn’t an unreasonable man, he’s actually quite polite and straightforward with his proposals, but he’s also a bounty hunter that cares the utmost about seeing his jobs through until the very end. Waltz cannot be matched when it comes to electrifying the screen with humor that plays mostly off of the man’s smarts and well-mannered attributes.
Equally impressive and even more engrossing is Jamie Foxx‘s portrayal of slave-turned-bounty-hunter Django. He’s not an out-of-the-box bad-ass like most would assume; he’s more of a gradual shift as his character’s born talents come to light as Django is allowed more and more freedoms. By the end of the film Django becomes a fully-developed savior that I wouldn’t have a hard time comparing to a superhero. Foxx knows the importance of this transformation and not once does he reveal any doubts or worries. He’s smooth-talking and unafraid when strength is needed and still emotionally vulnerable during the film’s most important moments.
There’s just no way to write about the film without mentioning Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Calvin Candie. He’s one of the most unlikable delinquents ever to grace a Tarantino film, yet DiCaprio makes him work like some sort of dark magic. Candie magnetically attracts you to everything he does or says, even if you know you’re going to have to close your eyes shortly after listening to him, because something grim is sure to follow. I’ve long waited for DiCaprio to star in a Tarantino film and the role of Candie couldn’t have gone to any other man. DiCaprio makes it seem as if no one could ever take the role and deliver such effectiveness.
I’ll let you discover the rebirth of Samuel L. Jackson on your own, without much of my input. He’s finally given a role that isn’t just Jackson playing a version of himself. Stephen is Jackson taking a cruel and vile character and turning him into one of the funniest things about the film, while still maintaining that level of slime and sleaze. It’s been far too long since Jackson has been used this effectively in a film and luckily for us Tarantino knows exactly how to write him and Jackson knows exactly how to deliver.
A lot of talk has surrounded the film’s running time and I must say that even at nearly three hours the film still feels like it could give us even more. Tarantino wisely structures the film in a way that would allow for more footage if a Director’s Cut was ordered up, but at the same time what we’ve been given is more than enough. Not a single second goes by wasted and instead the entire film feels like an adrenaline rush to the head. It’s brutal and sadistic one minute and then witty and ingenious the next.
Tarantino describes the film not as a Western but as a Southern and that’s almost the perfect way to break it down. It has the makings of a Western, with lots of scenery-focused travel shots, traditional saloon shootouts and a revenge-focused outline, but then it takes several changes in direction that haven’t really been given a genre to be defined by until now. A Southern is exactly what Django Unchained is. It’s a tale of revenge, but it’s not exactly a revenge film. There’s an actual methodical route set in order by Django and Schultz that if successful wouldn’t amount to single drop of blood. It’s the unfortunate turn of events that lead to what can only be described as a house drenched in blood.
Django Unchained is without a doubt my favorite film of 2012 and one of my favorite Tarantino films. He’s constructed a film that works as a gun-slinging tribute to some classic Westerns while also being something that’s deeply rooted in showing us what we try to ignore from America’s past. Tarantino gets the reality out there and shows us some horrific images and characters, but while doing so he also adds his unique stamp of filmmaking that gives us new cult characters to cheer for and hope that he reuses in future films.
Django Unchained – 10/10