Not many people can pull off gory violence and an intelligent script interwoven with humor like Quentin Tarantino can. He always knows how to balance a serious story without being too dramatic about the whole ordeal. There are two things you can expect from a Tarantino film: 1) plenty of shooting and gore, and 2) humor where it is sometimes inappropriate.
The film follows Django (Jamie Foxx) after he’s sold at a slave auction. He is freed by Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) in order to help him collect a bounty on the three brothers who used to own Django (The ‘D’ is silent!). The two work together as bounty hunters until they make enough to go after Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is now owned by the powerful plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” has Western style with a modern-day twist. The movie business has made their share of slave-era films, but none with the flair and righteousness that Tarantino bestows. Violence in films has always been scrutinized, but “Django Unchained” not only makes it fun, but gives it justification as well.
The movie is set two years prior to the Civil War and while Schultz and Django state hop, it mainly takes place in the plantation south. The thing with Tarantino is that he can take topics such as slavery, Nazism, and revenge and turn them into brilliant story masterpieces. It’s not that “Django Unchained” is perfect in any sense of the word, but there is something about it that makes you sit up and pay attention. It could be it was the shoot-outs and blood flying everywhere, but perhaps it was something more. Something like bad people getting their comeuppance in the eyes of Django’s revenge.
Christoph Waltz is always the highlight whenever he graces the big screen. The man has an understated charm and wit which gets audiences to love him even when he’s playing a bad man. Luckily as Dr. Schultz, he maintains that charm and wit without going dark side. His character is smart and can talk his way out of almost anything. His presence is as delightful as his acting talent.
Jamie Foxx does a good job playing both a slave and a free man. Foxx brings a righteous anger to his character that feels fair and isn’t over the top. He is a man on a mission when it comes to freeing his wife and lets his face do the talking when faced with aggressive behavior.
Leonardo DiCaprio really pulls off the evil plantation owner. It’s refreshing because DiCaprio hasn’t really played much of a villain-type character in years and his southern accent is well placed and isn’t exaggerated by any means. As Monsieur Candie (yes, he’s a Francophile without the luxury of speaking French), he provides the suspense in the movie. DiCaprio portrays a man whose top can be blown at any given moment and he really builds the momentum of the film.
Samuel L. Jackson gives a standout performance as Stephen, Monsieur Candie’s caretaker. Jackson is unrecognizable in the role (and that’s meant as a compliment!). His character runs the house and keeps a lookout for anyone trying to mess with Candie. Jackson portrays Stephen’s hatred towards African Americans as though he were a slave owner himself. Jackson really outdoes himself and puts in one of his best performances.
Kerry Washington is usually a good actress, but unfortunately her role was minimized to wide eyed glances and scared facial expressions. She has very little speaking lines and is a damsel in every sense of the word. Some of the early scenes where Tarantino abruptly flashes to her face does nothing for the movie as a whole and is a waste of Washington’s talent.
Overall, the movie has solid pacing, a generally well thought out story, and plenty of Tarantino-style violence and humor. Occasionally, the movie does drag a little due to its length time and it’s not at the level of “Inglourious Basterds,” but is still a thoroughly enjoyable watch with plenty of action, drama, and humor for everyone. A good addition to the Quentin Tarantino movie collection.