Django Unchained is another homerun for writer/director Quentin Tarantino. What’s being touted as the second in his revisionist history series is actually an homage to the early 60s freed slave Western genre. It is no surprise that Hollywood pre-civil rights movement possessed a liberal flair for all things Django in a series of films that celebrated the Western, with a Civil War era twist.
Jamie Foxx disappears into the role as hero Django. Knowing the weight of the role, actor Foxx who got his start in comedy adds a delicate touch to humor the demands of the script. He disappears into the role but establishes a modicum of levity at the base level; all in all, there is nothing stopping the average audience from sympathizing with a freed slave but Foxx doesn’t stop with his relateability; he makes sure you don’t cringe with his gunfire. Instead you laugh with him, you cheer him on, and you admire his quest to get his life back on track.
Tarantino is aware that the three arc structure is an easy sell for this outing. He lets the camera sit on depravity and doesn’t shy away from moments of drama, with the obvious blasphemy of one man in bondage to another. The shock value of Inglorious Bastards is at play here, but the narrative exercise that Bastards plays out needs not be repeated when the hero is singular and the plight is well-known, a stain on Americana.
To aid the blood and gore of historical righteousness, Django is freed and joined to the moral high ground of Dr. King Schultz, played admirably by Christoph Waltz. One moment, Schultz appears as if he’s in it for the adventure; the next, he’s clearly a moral man, armed with a categorical imperative and the marksmanship of soul over body; his precision is enabled through a clear conscience and deeds that help him to get around the Wild, Wild, West beyond the guise of visitor.
Leonardo DiCaprio and especially Sam Jackson are tremendous here; the latter shows that even though he’s Marvel Comics’ pinch hitter, he can still out act most, as if he was on a stroll through Central Park. The award for most convincing performance in Django goes to Kerry Washington, who plays the hero’s beloved. Where Django loses himself in the crusade, she strikes a pose with the unconscionable burden a soul has to deal with such trials and torment, such fear and paralysis: she must be saved; and she will be, because writer Tarantino is batting strong on a series of happy endings that go back since the hard-boiled first film Reservoir Dogs.