A vocal admirer of the Western genre, it was always a matter of when writer/director Quentin Tarantino would release a cowboy picture. Of course, it was also safe to assume it wouldn't be a conventional Wild West shoot'em up. Django Unchained
is about a German bounty hunter who partners with a free slave just before the civil war.
Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) left dentistry for the more lucrative business of hunting American criminals and turning them in for the reward. For a particular case he sought out the assistance of an eye witness -- a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx). Finding they worked well together and not a believer in slavery, Schultz offers Django a partnership through the winter. In exchange, he'll share the bounties and help Django rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from an infamous slave owner, Monsieur Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
There's been some controversy about Tarantino making a film about slavery, the events he's portrayed and the use of the N-word, which numbers more than a hundred. No matter the critic's opinion of the filmmaker, one cannot say he sugar-coated any aspect of the film. Whippings, hot-boxing, castration and dog attacks were a matter of occurrence for slaves. These comprise some of the most disturbing scenes in the movie, but at least they're accurate.
The blood for blood's sake in this film is far more obvious and dramatic with gushes of red stuff and exploding body parts from simple gunshot wounds. The demise of certain characters is displayed in slow motion or replayed to intensify the death. Tarantino also pokes fun at an early incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan when a racist group gathers to gain justice from the inter-racial duo.
The performances are excellent from everyone. Waltz is flawless as has come to be expected. His reteaming with Tarantino for this picture was a perfect fit. It's unthinkable to even consider Will Smith in the role of Django because Foxx owns it so completely. From the early vulnerability to the hardened grit to the committed role player, he immerses himself in the dark corners of the character. DiCaprio uses his charm to a terrible advantage as Candie, who speaks with a forked tongue. But he makes an impeccable villain. Hidden behind prosthetics that make him decades older, a thick accent and a limp, Samuel L. Jackson portrays a house slave that audiences will never forget. Though they could have done with Tarantino's Australian cameo.
Without a doubt this movie is made in the filmmaker's signature style, but it achieves much more.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx
, Christoph Waltz
and Leonardo DiCaprio