Quentin Tarantino ranks as one of the most versatile directors in Hollywood, dabbling in genres, finding the boundaries of those genres, and completely redefining those boundaries. His latest film, Django Unchained, continues this tradition. This spaghetti western/revenge film reinvents a long-revered genre, keeping key elements in place while adding copious amounts of blood and swearing. Did you expect anything less from the same guy who directed Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs?
It’s two years before the Civil War begins. Django, a slave, is sold to a pair of slavers and separated from his wife, Broomhilda. It seems he will never see her again until his chance for freedom comes in the form of the bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Schultz seeks his help in tracking down the notorious Brittle brothers, a group of criminals with a hefty price on their heads. One job after another leads the unlikely duo to the slave owner Calvin Candie, who currently owns Django’s lost wife. Can Django and Schultz escape Candie’s clutches with Broomhilda-and their lives?
Jamie Foxx nails his portrayal of Django, presenting him as a quiet, reserved slave seething with rage beneath a calm surface. This rage is made clear as he shoots down anyone who crosses him, a merciless glint in his eyes. Foxx shows his chops here, and an Oscar nomination may be in the near future for him.
Christoph Waltz delivers a standout performance as Dr. King Schultz, who turns out to be the most memorable character in the film. Waltz steps into Schultz’s shoes and becomes the character. It’s likely that little acting was actually needed for him because he has such natural talent and command of the character.
Leonardo DiCaprio shines in what may be his finest performance to date. He holds nothing back, presenting Calvin Candie as a ruthless man with a love for money, business, and nothing else. DiCaprio develops the character well, despite the fact he is only in around a third of the movie.
Samuel L. Jackson plays Stephen, Candie’s most loyal slave. Jackson’s side-splitting performance will likely win audiences over instantly, which is typical for him. His appearance makes an already outstanding film even more fun.
Django Unchained serves not only as a spaghetti western but also as a period piece. Many will be repelled by the film’s excessive use of certain words, but it is important to consider the time in which it takes place. That being said, Tarantino could have eased up a bit on the usage of these words, but all in all he does a superb job at capturing the language of pre-Civil War United States.
Some of Tarantino’s creative choices, especially in this film, seem to be made purely for shock value. This works both for and against him. On one hand, many like his bold style and tendency to cross lines. It’s refreshing and few filmmakers are willing to do it. On the other, some may find his style tasteless and unnecessary.
Aside from overusing racial slurs, Tarantino’s latest endeavor is both wildly entertaining and immensely enjoyable. Those itching for fun, violent, and shocking fare will have a blast with Django Unchained.