Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German bounty hunter frees a black slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) in the hope he can identify three wanted brothers for him. When Schultz learns about Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) he decides to help his attempt to rescue her from flamboyant plantation hunter Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Strangely enough it all gets a bit violent.
If you’ve ever seen a Tarantino movie you should know what to expect from the brilliant Django Unchained; lengthy dialogue scenes, building tension, a geek’s wet-dream of movie references, lots and lots of blood and copious use of the N word. For once that last comes with a context that might make it less offensive. This is America’s slavery era, a bloody and lawless world and the perfect setting for QT’s style of film-making.
The film is about the grim satisfaction of righteous retribution, a celebration of the triumphant underdog wreaking revenge against a whole host of loathsome oppressors. In this sense the film works as the perfect companion piece to Inglourious Basterds. As in that film the star is Christoph Waltz who enjoys his role as the avenging angel Schultz and makes every scene he features in full of energy.
Jamie Foxx is equally compelling, rich in quiet charisma, his character gaining in confidence towards the climactic bloodbath, a sequence that makes screen violence simply balletic. DiCaprio rules his role as Candie the morally outrageous lover of Mandingo Fighting, switching gracefully from ostentatious to sinister. Familiar Tarantino alumnus Samuel L Jackson plays arguably the most interesting character, an elderly slave elevated to a position of some import in Candie’s household who subscribes wholly to the superiority of the white man and treats his fellow slaves with as much cruelty as any white slaver.
Django is hugely entertaining but it peaks and troughs somewhat, a number of scenes seem to drag on longer than seems necessary and the running time seems decidedly indulgent. The plot itself could easily fit into a two hour film or shorter and plenty could be stripped without sacrificing the heart of the movie. Plus there’s no getting away from the fact that everybody talks like they’re in a Quentin Tarantino film, a strange complaint perhaps but the director’s writing style is so defined and colourful it can detract from the naturalism of an otherwise pretty authentic film.
But whatever complaints can be levelled at the film are greatly outweighed by what makes it so enjoyable. The gratuitous violence and black comedy strikes all the right notes and the cast clearly enjoy every moment.
Stylish, violent and exhilarating, Django Unchained is another hit for Tarantino.