Django Unchained (2012)
Not since Blazing Saddles has the western film, in my opinion, been remained, tweaked, and revitalized as with this one. True to all of his previous efforts, Quentin Tarantino shows why he’s one of the most important and influential filmmakers of our generation. Anytime this guys puts something out, its worth at least one watch and his latest is no different. It is an unlikely tale of romance set against the backdrop of one of the darkest and most trying times of our nation’s history. This is Django Unchained.
Tarantino has an uncanny gift of making his films feel timeless. While he is well-known for paying homage to the style of film he grew up with, he is still able to make his movies feel fresh and of their time. The story structure in this one is pretty straightforward and is a bit more linear than what he tends to do but, for this, it works. It takes its queues from the spaghetti western type films but then turns them on their ears with Tarantino’s unique blend of violence, humor, and gloriously gratuitous cursing. Only Tarantino can make an argument between a group of Klansmen and great time. The bounty hunting story element is used brilliantly throughout. Following Django and Dr. Schultz as they hunt down and collect their bounties makes for a “rip-roaring” good time that almost disguises the horrible setting that it all takes place in. Then as the wild ride continues, Quentin builds the tension of story’s climax, as only he can, beyond the boiling point before throwing the story in a completely unpredictable place that sees things going terribly, yet hilariously, awry.
Again, as with every movie he has done to date, there is at least a couple of acting clinics going on within this picture. Jamie Foxx’s Django is a complete and multi-faceted hero that carries the narrative through all of its ups and downs with expert precision. He knows exactly where to take the audience with the character and is able to come across as naive yet resolute. Christoph Watlz, as Dr. King Schultz, shows once again how much of a badass he is. Even as a good guy this time around, he is still able to maintain a slightly off-center charm and swagger to him that reminecent of a Han Solo perpetually stuck in the awkwardness of puberty. Kerry Washington, beautiful as ever, works well as Broomhilda by playing the personification of the end of Django’s journey while also having a sympathetic character arc of her own. Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie is a marvelous antagonist that almost comes as a surprise when his character takes a turn to the nasty. But it’s Samuel L. Jackson’s performance that gets the Ridiculously Awesome award for this flick. Jackson plays Stephen and brings on a fully formed character that is very much Sam but is also one that can be seen completely outside of the persona that Mr. Jackson has become. Jackson rounds out the roster of brilliant performances with humor and intense dramatic depth.
As great a time as this film is, it still cannot escape its setting. Does this bring the movie as a whole down: no. It sheds a bit more light on the ridiculousness of some of the things that happened during that period by juxtaposing them against well placed humor. What Tarantino does well with this is not dwell on the savagery that went on during the era, instead he made it a significant element of the story and moved on naturally, but never letting one forget when the story was taking place and what was happening to and around the characters. Quentin’s signature style is in top form with this picture and, with it, raises the appreciation for his wealth of work.
- When it’s Django Unchained, “the Force is strong with this one.”
yes, I know. Quentin Tarantino and Star Wars have absolutely nothing in common, as much as we may want them too. Check out RAMARS for that end quote to make more sense.