Django Unchained, 2012, USA
Oh, how I adore Quentin Tarantino. His films are consistently entertaining and always seem to test the boundaries of the audience. Django Unchained is no different.
Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is a German dentist turned bounty hunter who has tracked down Django (Jamie Foxx). Schultz is looking to kill the Brittle brothers, and Django knows what they look like, so Schultz purchases him and promises his freedom in exchange for his help. Django is looking to save his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), and Schultz agrees to help him track her down as well. Broomhilda is owned by Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the malicious and charming owner of “Candyland”, a large plantation in Mississippi. Schultz and Django must come up with a plan to save Broomhilda without arising the suspicions of Candie and his large staff, including head house slave Stephen (an amazing Samuel L. Jackson).
I loved the film. It was incredibly entertaining, and, while it’s a long film, I didn’t feel the length for a minute. There was a lot of humour in the film, but Tarantino manages to balance the humour with the drama, and the shocking, often brutal violence. While many of Tarantino’s past films use very cartoonish violence, this is not always the case in Django Unchained. Some of it is cartoonish, but some of it was painfully realistic and difficult for me to watch. This helped underline the brutality of slavery and what African American slaves went through in the 19th century.
Across the board, the performances were all impressive. Foxx is a talented actor and he handles Django’s transformation as a character beautifully. He goes from a very submissive man who has been shaped and damaged by his experiences as a slave to a strong, independent and ruthless man. Waltz was excellent, as well. I absolutely adore Waltz as an actor and, as usual, he exudes charisma and is a powerful onscreen presence. DiCaprio was just outstanding as the villain of the film. He has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and I’d argue that he should win it – and the Oscar.
In some respects, Django Unchained is similar to Inglourious Basterds. Both use historical revisionism to a great extent, and both have very heavy western influences. There has been some controversy over the revisionism in Django Unchained, but I felt that it worked well in the film. It was clearly a fictional film, but it highlights the brutality of slavery and what a terrible thing is it – even if some of the details have been modified for dramatic effect. Director Spike Lee has spoken out against the film and believes that it is disrespectful to his ancestors, but I never felt that it was offensive. Like Inglourious Basterds before it, Django Unchained is a fictional tale of revenge. Those who kept slaves were the villains, much like how the Nazis were the villains of Inglourious Basterds.
There was also controversy over the use of the “N word”, but I strongly feel that not using it would have damaged the film. It was a period film and that word was in common use at that time. It is an uncomfortable word to hear, and one that I will never use myself, but it’s supposed to make the audience feel uncomfortable.
I adored Django Unchained, and it’s a film I am eager to watch again and again. Go and see it – especially if you’re a Tarantino fan.