Django Unchained


Release date: December 25, 2012
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay by: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Cristoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel Jackson

Retelling history is one of the perks of being a filmmaker, and after the successful film Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino is back with another one. Hitting hard with an antebellum-era spaghetti western, Django Unchained is arguably one of Tarantino’s wildest and most entertaining films.

Setting aside the abundant plots and side stories that fill his former films, Tarantino gets straight to the point in Django Unchained. Dr. King Schultz (Waltz), a bounty hunter on the hunt for three wanted men, buys and frees a slave named Django (Foxx). With Django at his side, King can identify and capture his bounty, but not without agreeing to help the former slave rescue his wife Broomhilda (Washington) from dangerous plantation owner Calvin Candie (DiCaprio).

Django Unchained shows a lot of love for classic films, especially Sergio Corbucci’s spaghetti westerns and good old exploitation films, and it’s no surprise with Tarantino at the helm. Tackling slavery head on is a ballsy move and one that certainly pays off. Compared to Spielberg’s Lincoln that shies away from actually addressing slavery, Django dives right into the heart of the days when slavery was all that and a bag of chips, and it’s just as terrifying as it is hilariously entertaining.

The terrifying comes in small doses throughout this epic tale. While the violence can sometimes be a thrill ride, the brutality of other scenes — whipping and bare-knuckle fighting among others — can be felt right down to the bone. The subtlety of some, though, is still harrowing, as we hear a man torn apart by dogs and see the splash of blood against cotton. Even Kerry Washington’s limited damsel in distress role, a surprise coming from a writer whose female characters usually impress, provides a close look at the harsh life of a slave.

Yet nothing is quite as shocking as the roles that Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel Jackson take on here. Amidst the liberal use of the n-word that has people up in a buzz, it’s impressive to see them both dive into these unlikable roles that have both comedy and fear laced into them. Sam Jackson is goddamn terrifying at times and one can only hope to see DiCaprio play a bonkers mustache-twirling, hammer-wielding villain again.

A stark contrast to all this dark slavery business is the sheer delight brought on by some of the western-inspired scenes, along with some genius comedic writing from Tarantino. The witty banter between Foxx and Waltz, including an almost touching telling of the German legend of Brunhilde by King to Django, was wonderful to watch. Having Jamie Foxx burst into a room to Tupac and James Brown shooting the place up was just as magnificent, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t smiling every time the film exploded into a riveting bloodbath in that Kill Bill style we remember so fondly.

There are enough films around that yell at people about how bad slavery was, but Quentin Tarantino flips them all off and places the gun in the hand of a slave, delivering a delightfully thrilling spaghetti western revenge saga like no other.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Juan Barquin

Just yer average twenty-something college student with no time on his hands who ends up watching (and writing) too many movies and shows for his own good.

15 Responses

  1. Camiele says:

    I think… yeah… I think the brother and I need to see this TOMORROW!

  2. totally agree. exceptional film.

    • Juan Barquin says:

      @Candice Frederick, I am so glad to hear you agree on this. I really can’t wait to round up what more people thought of it because I know a lot of people are Very Angry about things and I can’t really grasp exactly why. So it sort of leaves me at this point where I’m like “what if it’s because I’m a Hispanic white dude writing about a movie about slavery that I feel this way” and it’s just nice to hear that a stunning number of people are on the same page as I am.

      • Camiele says:

        @Juan Barquin, Well, it seems all part in parcel to a Tarantino film. Most who do hate him hate the fact that this WHITE man has the nerve to use the N-word, that he has the nerve to write about slavery, that he has the nerve to use Samuel L. Jackson… you know anything.

        What I find so hilarious is how much Spike Lee kinda hates him… and yet they’re pretty much the SAME director/writer. Their storytelling style is almost the same, the way they direct is COMPLETELY congruent (very stylized, very extreme use of the camera). Their writing is the same for the most part (again, very extreme). I can honestly say the only difference is race. Both talk about race and examine it in the same way, just the perspective is different and THAT’S what sets people on edge.

        • Juan Barquin says:

          @Camiele, I will never understand Spike Lee’s immense hatred for Tarantino. I totally agree with you on what you’re saying. And see – that’s what I love about Quentin Tarantino. He ALWAYS flips the role of the victim on its head. Whether it’s bringing forth immensely strong women (in multiple movies), Jews taking down Nazis, or slaves shooting down plantation owners, it’s always putting the power in the “victim” and I think that’s the greatest thing someone can do.

  3. Camiele says:

    @Juan Barquin, I agree. I’m telling you it’s all about race. As much as people want to pretend that it doesn’t exist, it truly does… ESPECIALLY when it comes to someone with extreme views as Spike Lee. But, again, that’s what I find so fascinating about his hatred. Because ultimately he’d have to point the camera, so to speak, at himself. Their styles are so very similar, but American history in the States suggests that an Italian-American’s who writes his characters using the N-word (cuz, that’s what this is really about) holds a darker, more sinister understanding than when a Black director does the same. But in reality, when both directors have their white characters use the same word for the same reason and the message is relatively the same in the film, it’s hypocritical to then become flagrantly upset about it.

    I just think in this instance it’s completely silly when both director are so similar in style and delivery.

  4. amy says:

    Alright, eff distribution. Just sayin’ xD

    I didn’t like Django Unchained, though. It’s better shot and better put together than Basterds, but it lacks a lot of what I liked about that one (tension, comedy, great heroines, great villains). I thought the film started out quite great, but kept on going down in interest as the story progressed. By the time ‘that’ happened and Waltz was gone, I was completely bored. I cared little about whether Django got his wife back, and I thought Kerry Washington deserved better than being the damsel in distress.

    Foxx wasn’t just a strong lead, even though his acting seemed fine. I was most interested in how evil Samuel L. Jackson seemed to be LOL. But the third act was quite horrible.

    One thing I came out with was that America should man up, and do more serious films about slavery. I’m glad there are a couple coming out this year, just hoping it gets wide distribution.

    • Juan Barquin says:

      @amy, Y’know, that’s exactly how I felt about Kerry Washington at first, and then I started reading her thoughts on the role. Considering she’s a black woman, and I’m a white male, and she’s the one actually in the role, her opinions clearly weigh more than mine, and here’s one line that stood out to me.

      “I know it’s not the most feminist idea to be a woman in a tower wanting to be rescued, but for a woman of color in this country, we’ve never been afforded that fairy tale because of how the black family was ripped apart [during slavery],” Washington said. “I really saw the value of having a story that empowers the African American man to do something chivalrous for the African American woman, because that hasn’t been an idea that has held women back in the culture — it’s something we’ve never been allowed to dream about.”

      And I think that’s a really cool notion to think about and people aren’t giving it a chance.

      Anyway, the first time I saw the movie I felt the lag in the last act, but I still enjoyed the hell out of it. As for the second viewing, I loved every minute of it. Jackson and Leo have this perfect team of pure evil together, but I especially love just how manipulative Jackson’s character was to be able to pull the strings of every single white person in the Candie household. I could friggin’ write papers on the relationships in this goddamn movie.

      America totally SHOULD man up. It’s amazing to see both Lincoln and Django up for BP this year considering how different they are in terms of slavery. We all know which one I dig more.

      • amy says:

        @Juan Barquin, still… it feels… out of place in Tarantino’s made-up world. In the context of Tarantino, yeah- it seems like a weak feminist role. But as just a simple film, it just seems like a weak background character who could have been played by anyone.

        Tarantino could have made her character be able to front the lie at the dinner table, and it would have been ten times better. And Jackson could have still not trusted her, so he would have still been able to find out.

    • Rodrigo says:

      @amy, I liked DU more than you did, but I definitely agree that the film suffers a lot when Waltz and DiCaprio are gone. While DU concludes the story as Django’s tale, Django played second fiddle to Schultz and Candie for the most part, even if he had to rescue his wife. I still found DU pretty engaging to watch until “that moment” happened.

      Also, for most of the film I wondered if Candie had an incestous relationship with his sister, LOL.

      I gave DU 3.75/5 (not the first I rate a Tarantino film below 4… Death Proof), but I think that this could have been worse if someone like Will Smith (originally rumored to headline DU) played as Django instead of Foxx.

      • amy says:

        @Rodrigo, LOLOLOL That’s exactly what I thought with Candie and his sister.

        I think I liked Basterds a lot more because Waltz plays the witty quite flamboyant nazi and the ones looking for vengeance are a bunch of sadistic dorks. And while Leo and Jackson might have had a little bit of dynamic, it just didn’t hold my attention.

        And Foxx seemed so cold and distant, it was hard to feel much other than horror when people got killed.

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