Quentin Tarantino has long since solidified himself as one of the greatest directors of our time. With films such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Inglourious Basterds under his belt, it’s easy to say that Tarantino films come with high expectations.
The question here is: does it live up to the hype? The answer is a resounding yes. While Kill Bill paid homage to samurai films and Inglourious Basterds paid homage to war films, Django Unchained is a tribute to spaghetti westerns. Tarantino has the ability to pay tribute to countless forms of cinema and still create a compelling film. Django Unchained is no exception. While the screenplay is exceptional, I feel that it is slightly bloated. The movie could have been shorter, but did I want it to be shorter? No. I can’t think of any scenes that I would want cut from the film because I enjoyed everything I saw. That’s one thing I should note about his films. He’s a wordsmith when it comes to dialogue and it makes every scene he crafts so fascinating to watch. The characters could be talking about something completely off-topic and random, yet his ability with words makes it incredibly absorbing.
The story follows Django (Jamie Foxx), a former slave that is freed by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). He takes Django under his wing and teaches him the ways of a bounty hunter. As they trek around the US, Django tells Schultz of his mission. He made a vow to his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) to rescue her from plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
The performances in the movie were outstanding. Jamie Foxx did a great job with his portrayal of the quietly brooding Django. But when compared to the rest of the cast, he falls a bit behind in terms of brilliance. The standout performances come from Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson. All three of them steal every single scene they are in. DiCaprio shines in his performance as Calvin Candie. He’s a racist and ruthless man, yet an absolute treat to watch. My favorite scene of the film was one involving a skull, a hammer, and some improvising by DiCaprio. In this climactic scene, Candie confronts Broomhilda and Django. As the scene continues, he slams his hand on the table creating a gash caused by some broken glass. In this scene, DiCaprio was actually hurt, but instead of stopping the scene he continued and used his hand as a prop. He smears his blood across Broomhilda’s face as she looks terrified (maybe a real reaction?). Either way, I think it’s outrageous that DiCaprio hasn’t received an Oscar over his entire career. He didn’t even earn a nomination for his performance as Calvin Candie. That was one of the biggest Oscar snubs of 2012. Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) is a devious and manipulative house slave. He has the ability frighten, as well as captivate. And lastly is Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz. He plays the character with such charm and enthusiasm that it’s hard not to root for him. From the outset of the film, I was absolutely engrossed in the story of Dr. Schultz. While watching the film, I had the sense that all these actors were enjoying their performances and having a lot of fun playing them. The scenes that these actors share together are mesmerizing and really help showcase their talents. They also help showcase Tarantino’s amazing directing abilities – which at this point, don’t need to be proven.
This wouldn’t be a Tarantino movie if it wasn’t extremely brutal and violent. There are scenes that will make you cringe (the Mandingo scene), but it’s nothing you haven’t seen from Tarantino. I was impressed with the acting, the directing, the script, and the performances. However, I did believe one of the flaws was some of the musical choices. Some of the more modern rap music didn’t fit very well, but besides that I couldn’t say I was displeased. Basically, if you like Tarantino films, I highly recommend this.