Classic Movie Review: Django Unchained (2012)

Posted: May 6, 2013 in Drama
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django-unchained

In 1858, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) part-time dentist, part-time bounty hunter is riding through Daughtry Texas looking for the Brittle brothers.  Trouble is, Schultz has no idea what the Brittle brothers look like.  To find out who the Brittle brothers are, Shultz enlists the help of a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who Shultz frees from bondage.  Django not only finds the Brittle brothers, but kills two of them.  Schultz wants to make as much money as possible as a bounty hunter.  Django has a mission of his own, to rescue his wife, Hildy (Kerry Washington) from a sadistic slave owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio)

Shultz assures Django that if Django helps him over the winter as a bounty hunter in Texas, he will go to Mississippi, and try to rescue Hildy from Candie.  The two bounty hunters make a lot of money over the winter and hatch a plan.  Shultz is going to feign interest in buying a slave from Candie for Mandingo fighting purposes, and Django pretends to be a free man who also owns slaves. The two unlikely friends head to Mississippi.

As soon as Django and Schultz get to Candieland, Candie’s plantation, Candie’s house slave, Stephen (Samuel L Jackson) is immediately suspicious of Django and Schultz and convinced that Django and Hildy know each other.  Will Django and Schultz execute their plan?  Does Stephen share his suspicions with Candie?

Let me preface this section of the review by stating that I am a big Quentin Tarantino  fan, I can find something good to say about most of his movies, except perhaps  From Dusk to Dawn, which was generally a waste of celluloid.  I thought that my Favorite Tarantino movie was Inglorious Basterds, but now it is Django Unchained.  It’s a big, bold western, which is a conglomeration of a lot of movies, it’s a western, it’s a buddy movie, it’s a revenge fantasy, and it’s all very well made.  Django is reminiscent of Ethan Edwards, John Wayne’s character in John Ford’s classic western, The Searchers.  Neither Django or Ethan are very nice,  they both are on a very personal mission, Django to find his wife, Ethan to find his daughter, and neither really cares who gets in their way, they will go around over, and through anyone who stands in their way.

Sure it’s violent, but much of that violence is illustrative of the inhumanity associated with slavery, and for that, this movie deserves to be lauded.  Slavery was a violent business and the brutality of the trading of human beings should never be sanitized.  Django  Unchained is also a very funny movie, but people never remember the humor in a Tarantino film, choosing to emphasize the violence.

The acting is superb.  Before I saw this movie, I wondered if Christoph Waltz was really deserving of another Oscar, he absolutely was.  He gives a joyous performance, a lot of the fun, the personality, the chemistry in the movie came as a result of Waltz’s performance.  Leonardo DeCaprio’s performance is remarkable, smiling one moment and snarling the next, he really should have been nominated for an Oscar, this was his best performance ever, and it is coming off a clunker as Hoover in J Edgar.  Samuel L. Jackson was also superb, in heavy makeup to make him look older, his character is seething, at the idea of being a slave, he is incredibly jealous of Django, and the fact that he has to bow and scrape to a free black man. This is truly Jackson’s best performance since Pulp Fiction.  I wish I could be as enthusiastic about Jamie Foxx, but I can’t, he just didn’t fit this movie.  There were other actors who could have done this role better, Don Cheadle, Terrence Howard, even Will Smith, who was offered this role, could have done better.  I liked Foxx in Ray, but not any role since then.

Tarantino is at the height of his writing and directorial powers with this movie, it is literally an epic. The characters are on a quest, a journey, and Tarantino knows how to write and direct an epic adventure movie, something as simple as the interplay between action and music makes this movie so much more enjoyable than the average movie. And the choice of music is spectacular, everything from classical to Richie Havens to rap music, just an outstanding soundtrack. There is an earlier version of Django, but I don’t think it had the scope or vision of Django  Unchained.  Unchained took on issues such as slavery and racism, head on.  The earlier Django was a spaghetti western with Franco Nero.  It might have been the inspiration for Django Unchained, but that’s all.

Django Unchained.  Liberate yourself from ordinary filmmaking.

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