Quentin Tarantino is back with his latest opus, Django Unchained. The best way to describe Django Unchained is by looking at it as a cross between a Spaghetti Western and Kill Bill. The dialogue, as in most of Tarantino’s films, is fast and well delivered. The blood also flows like most of the Tarantino movies we have grown to love, and understand, where the quirkiness is presented in his style. Knowing what I knew going into this experience, I had my hopes set high and was not disappointed. While there are many similarities to former Tarantino films, Django Unchained offers a different style than most might be expecting. What is different you may ask, well read on and you’ll get a better idea.
Django Unchained starts off in Texas in 1858, two years before the Civil War. We see a group of slaves being lead through multiple conditions as the opening credits roll. Nightfall hits the slaves and their owners when a strange figure appears. The man starts asking questions, but before anyone gives any answers, they need to know his name. The man introduces himself as Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Dr. Schultz is looking for a slave that was recently purchased from auction; a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx). When Schultz offers to pay for Django, and is refused, he takes matters into his own hands. The first five minutes certainly set us up for something fun and unique. Christoph Waltz really brings a comedic presence to the screen that most may not be used to from him. The scene has some INTENSE images, and this is coming from a guy who is known for extreme violence. It’s a great set up for the future violence to come, but doesn’t let us know much about Dr. King Schultz and Django.
Schultz and Django make their way into a local town, where the story quickly picks up. The people in town keep giving the duo weird looks simply because they have never seen a black man riding a horse. My choice of words is far more politically correct than the words that are used in the movie, but you get the gist. The duo set up shop in a bar, and the bartender quickly goes running for help after a slight altercation. This is where we learn that Schultz is a bounty hunter who needs Django’s help to find three men, who are brothers. The men Schultz is looking for are the former owners of Django, and his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Django accepts the offer since he now has the opportunity to get paid to kill white people. [Swift aside . . . wonderful] Schultz and Django take care of the business at hand and then make their way to find the men Django knows, and Schultz wants to find. They wind up at the plantation of Big Daddy (Don Johnson). Big Daddy has problems believing that Django is a free man and a confidant of Schultz, but allows the duo to look around and opens his plantation to them. Django quickly discovers that they are at the right place, and through flashbacks, we get an understanding of the hatred and angst Django has for the three brothers. The scenes play out nicely, and what follows is something so humorous, you just may feel bad for laughing.
Schultz has decided to take Django under his wing and train him to be a great Bounty Hunter. Django has decided that he will help Schultz if they can track down Broomhilda, and free her from her current owner. After doing some research, Schultz finds out that the auction Broomhilda was sold at, and who had purchased her. The man who bought Broomhilda from auction was Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), owner of one of the largest plantations in the south, “Candieland.” The name of the plantation is sure to illicit a few chuckles, and it seems like a cheap joke, but for some reason it works well. Schultz and Django make their way to Candieland, and quickly start getting looks for the two of them being so chummy. This is where the major basis of the story takes place. The way that DiCaprio plays an obnoxious plantation owner is one of his finer roles, to me personally. He took charge of the role, and seemingly enjoyed playing Calvin. Calvin is a man who loves who he is, and he shows it every chance he gets.
The only thing about Calvin that makes him vulnerable is that he is naive. Calvin has his own right hand man that is black, but still a slave; Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson). Stephen has been at Candieland for so many years, he can’t remember how many owners he has had, but has become part of the family. Stephen helps Calvin to see things that may have been overlooked. I admit while watching the movie it was different seeing Samuel L. Jackson in a different way. The way he was made up would make a person do a double take, but his voice gives him away every time. Schultz and Django have established themselves as welcome guests at Candieland, looking to purchase a slave to fight, and also Broomhilda.
In one of the more nerve racking scenes, Stephen has a discussion with Calvin and after all hell breaks loose. This scene really pulls in the audience and really establishes the lines that have been drawn. The way it plays out may be considered Shakespearean. The way everything was acted and played out was excellent.
The movie continues for a period of time longer, and this leads me to my only point of contention with Django Unchained. The movie was longer than I had originally expected, and while most of the movie was a fun thrill ride that didn’t even make me think about the time; there were scenes that didn’t add anything to the film. Though the movie was long, and some scenes did drag, it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment. I will say that if you’re a fan of Westerns or of the works of Quentin Tarantino, you will most definitely enjoy Django Unchained. If you don’t feel like being in a theater watching some amazing actors do some of their finest work for close to three hours, that’s your choice. The performances by Waltz, DiCaprio, and Jackson are easily worthy of a nomination; but, you can be the judge of that yourself. I personally will see Django Unchained again and once again enjoy the ride and vision of Quentin Tarantino.