January 24, 2013 by thedavidryan
Django Unchained – Review
“Kill white people and get paid for it? What’s not to like?”
Set in the deep American South two years before the Civil War, Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as the enigmatic Django, a slave whose cruel existence is going nowhere until a chance encounter with German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. In exchange for his services, Schultz offers Django his freedom and his help to track down Django’s separated slave wife, who has been sold to infamous plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Jamie Foxx is wonderful as the charismatic Django and delivers a powerful performance of a man whose world goes from the very bottom of the barrel to this highest peak of the slave mountain. Foxx is both funny and heartbreaking as Django, his rise from social scum to sharp shooting bounty hunter can be harsh at times, particularly during his slave flashbacks, but once the shackles come off, a bunch of fun is to be had thanks to the snappy dialogue and great on screen chemistry with Christoph Waltz.
Waltz is on superb form as Dr. King Schultz and his collaborations with director Quentin Tarantino seemingly brings out the best from the Austrian actor. Despite not reaching the heights of his role as Colonel Hans Landa in 2009’s Inglorious Basterds, Waltz is captivating in every single scene and the way he enunciates Tarantino’s sparkling dialogue so meticulously and so carefully, you could happily listen to him converse for hours on end. While Waltz is unquestionably on fine form, it is perhaps Leonardo DiCaprio that packs the biggest acting punch here. His display as the despicable narcissistic Calvin Candie is truly fascinating and his electrifying character is sure to go down as one of Tarantino’s most hated yet iconic film characters.
Samuel L. Jackson seemingly never says no to a film role, Snakes on a Plane for example, however it is obvious that when teaming up with Tarantino, he is at his scorching best. Jackson arguably plays the most complex and unique character in the film. His performance as Stephen, a black man with a white man’s authority, will make you laugh one minute and make you loathe him the next.
Much of the controversy surrounding Django Unchained has been the exploration of America’s tainted past and the use of the highly offensive N-word racial insult. Tarantino has always been an unapologetic film maker and typically pulls no punches here. However, he tackles the subject matter with great respect, yet does so in a brutal and at times hard to watch fashion, as the horrendous era is brought to the big screen in a series of disturbing and typically Tarantino esc ways.
Thankfully though Tarantino doesn’t use the N-word loosely, every time it is uttered throughout the film, it stings with as much bite at the end as it did at the start. Creating a slave age movie without using the insult would’ve been a mistake and the easy way out. While some others may be offended and disagree, its inclusion undoubtedly adds to the feel of the atrocious time period and it is a necessary element to the movie experience.
Django Unchained is undoubtedly a Quentin Tarantino picture. The look, the feel and the soundtrack are all Tarantino calling cards that work delightfully in the backdrop of the Deep South. As with any Tarantino movie, the dialogue is as snappy as a three piece suit, and thankfully Django Unchained continues the trend. Wonderful monologues roll effortlessly off the actor’s tongues, and many conversations quickly develop into gorgeous linguistic chess matches. Christoph Waltz in particular is stunning when uttering Tarantino’s script and when his charismatic Doctor shares the screen with DiCaprio’s maniacal Calvin Candie, the poetic fireworks are a treat to watch.
Django Unchained – Conclusion
Django Unchained is thrilling, stylish, funny, brutal, wonderfully offensive and pretty much exactly what you would expect from a Tarantino western. Superb acting displays from Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson are worth the admission price alone. However, it is Leonardo DiCaprio that marvellously steals the show.
While it will always be surrounded by controversy due to its previously uncharted subject matter, Django Unchained is a harsh and unforgiving story that plunges into a dirty issue and comes out smelling of roses.