Quentin Tarantino is a divisive guy. A kind of love him or hate him filmmaker. His career started off gangbusters with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. Due to their quality he was touted as the next best young director. He continued on with Jackie Brown and the Kill Bill series. Then came a misstep with Death Proof but he was right back on the horse with Inglorious Basterds. Django Unchained continues him along the quality film path. It is actually my favourite film of his since the Pulp Fiction/Reservoir Dog days. It is fast, bloody, filled with dialogue (a Tarantino staple), violent, over the top, and basically fantastic. It is so not your typical Oscar film though, but I hope he still gets the recognition he deserves for it.
After treading across many miles shackled to other slaves, Django (Jamie Foxx – Law Abiding Citizen, Ray) is “bought” from his owners by the German and very strange Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz – Like Water for Elephants, Inglorious Basterds). Dr. King Schultz has a proposition for Django. If Django accompanies him to a plantation in Texas and points out the three Brittle brothers, who used to be the overseers on the plantation Django was on, to Dr. King Schultz he will earn his freedom, a horse and a little money. Explaining that he used to be a dentist, but is now a bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz is obviously an educated and intelligent man with a flair with language and is totally against slavery.
Of course, Django agrees to the offer. Dr. King Schultz hatches a whole story they are to spin to the plantation owner, Spencer “Big Daddy” Bennett (Don Johnson – from television’s Miami Vice), in order to get onto his property so they can look around for the Brittle brothers. While Dr. King Schultz distracts Big Daddy with talk of buying a female slave for a lot of money Django looks around the plantation. He spies the Brittle brothers and sees that two of them are about to whip a slave the same way they did to the woman Django loved. Losing his mind, Django shoots one of the Brittles and then whips unconscious then shoots another. With his rifle King shoots the last Brittle.
King now only has to collect the bounty for the three Brittles and Django is a free man. Curious, King asks Django what he is going to do now that he is free. Django tells him that he is going to look for his wife, who he believes is on a plantation in Mississippi. Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington – from television’s Scandal) has been discussed by the two men and King was impressed with the woman who could speak German. King has another proposition for Django. After seeing his bravery and marksmanship, King proposes that if Django works with him over the winter months as a bounty hunter he will join him in his effort to get Broomhilda.
The deal is on and after the winter months the two head to the plantation owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio – Inception, Titanic) to purchase Broomhilda.
After seeing this film I wondered to myself why Quentin Tarantino had never made a Western before. The genre is perfect for his style. Plenty of opportunity for violence and witty, stream of consciousness dialogue. The violence in Django Unchained is brutal, but so much so that it becomes less jarring. Body after body with blood exploding from it like overripe tomatoes is pretty ridiculous after about the tenth one. Basically you become numb to the plethora of gore that happens during the numerous shootouts.
Each of the featured actors was perfectly cast. Even Jamie Foxx, who I’m still undecided about him as an actor, was a great Django. A solid, if largely silent, performance in which he is very convincing as the slave turned bounty hunter. He changes quite seamlessly from powerless to powerful.
With each passing film I am more and more impressed with Christoph Waltz’s talent. He is great in this role that seems tailor made for him. A whiz with the intricate dialogue and a type of charisma that cannot be taught, Waltz is sure to be rewarded by an Oscar nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category.
Even Leonardo DiCaprio, another who falls into my not my favourite actor category, is spot on as the racist, pompous and slimy plantation owner. He is not his usual engaging character in this one he is despicable with a cheesy goatee and brown teeth. Unhinged and violent is not his usual role, but I applaud him for taking on and succeeding at this.
Lately I have been moaning about the length of films as it seems that no director is capable of making one that is less than two hours. Well, settle in because Django Unchained is two hours and forty-five minutes long, but honestly, it did not drag at all. Even I did not get restless because I was always entertained.