Movie Review: Django Unchained
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kerry Washington.
Plot: A freed slave sets out to rescue his wife with the help of his bounty hunter mentor.
Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave walking through Texas in winter while chained up among some other slaves all bought at auction. A German dentist, Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz), comes walking around looking for Django. Shultz is actually a bounty hunter, and he needs Django’s help identifying some outlaws that he has had first hand experience with. Django does so in return for Shultz’s help in saving his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who is being held by plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who likes to train his slaves to fight to the death.
Writer/director, Quentin Tarantino, tends to talk in circles about his next projects and which projects he would actually like to do, so when he says Django Unchained is actually the second of a trilogy of period piece revenge fantasies along with Inglourious Basterds, I would take it with a grain of salt. Either way, Django… is a great new addition to this NEW era of Tarantino. Gone are the days of simplistic gangster pictures that only become complex with clever editing and even more clever dialog. Ever since Kill Bill, Tarantino’s pension for violence seems much less about implication like it once was and much more in your face and out in the open. He paints these big epic portraits with blood and bullets. He uses these big water balloons of blood which bug me, but Tarantino shoots the hell out of a shoot out. The friendly fire was a nice touch
The dialog has also never been more clever. His comebacks are still sharp. His monologues are still engrossing, but he doesn’t lean on being just talky stories anymore. There were many great scene of silence in both Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds, and that trend continues in Django Unchained. This is very clear when it comes to Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington. Jamie Foxx really impressed me. He has the kind of steely resolve and icy exterior that any gunslinging cinematic badass might have, but he also carries with him a deep sadness and anxiety. Kerry Washington delivers a very similar performance. She practically has zero dialog but more emotions than any other actor in the movie. Every time she is onscreen, she is utterly heartbreaking.I love those kind of performances so the big personality of the other 3 main characters could never distract me from it.
Those 3 are of course are Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson. Waltz’s delivery and Tarantino’s writing go together like spaghetti and meatballs, and that is really put to the test with this movie. Waltz has to handle just so much dialog. He has a lot of exposition and a lot of explanation to cover. Even in his casual encounters with characters, he had words just falling out of his mouth. DiCaprio really steps out of his comfort zone. He is unrecognizable as the sadistic Southern-fried owner of Candie-Land. He is helped by his house servant, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson). Calvin and Stephen are to Django Unchained what Hitler and Landa were to Basterds.
This is, I think, the first Tarantino movie I have seen where the pacing and flow just does not work as well as it should. That is weird considering many of his movies are actually cut into chapters and should feel episodic, yet somehow they don’t. This is actually the first movie other than Death Proof where his movie runs in chronological order. The pace might have fared better if what should have been the climactic moment of the movie took place a little later so we can forgo the few minutes afterward that just feel kind of like filler.
Django Unchained makes for great companions for Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino finally got to make a Western (even though it takes place in the South), and it is totally worth it.