Django Unchained

Django

No one makes cooler movies than Quentin Tarantino.

In the pre-Civil War south, a German bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) tracks down a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) in order to find someone who would recognize the bounties he’s chasing. The Brittle brothers are wanted criminals who used to work on the plantation that Django was just sold from, and Schultz needs them identified. After freeing Django (violently), he explains the business he’s in, and together they set out after the Brittles.

During their work together, Schultz learns that Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) is still being kept as a slave (Broomhilda’s first owners were German). Partly out of compassion, and partly because Django makes a good bounty hunting partner, Schultz agrees to assist him in freeing her.

Broomhilda is owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Schultz assesses that Candie would not sell Broomhilda outright, so instead he concocts a plan where he and Django will pose as parties interested in entering into the Mandingo fighting game. Schultz will be the bankroll, and Django, a free man consulting him on his purchases. Candie has a number of slaves he uses to enter fights, and Schultz reasons that he could be approached about one of them, and then perhaps convinced to throw Broomhilda into the bargain as an afterthought. Thus the two men pose as partners hoping to scout fighters in order to enter Candie’s good graces.

When they finally arrive at Candie Land, however, the head house slave, Stephen (Samuel L Jackson), smells something amiss…

Tarantino, as is his M.O., creates a film here with spellbinding dialogue scenes, punctuated with bursts of hyper violence. It’s not so much that the dialogue is memorable and quotable in the way of “Pulp Fiction”, it’s more along the lines of scenes where characters have conversations with danger lurking beneath a la “Inglourious Basterds”. One verbal misstep and a hail of bullets will fly.

Plus, of course, Tarantino has populated this world with his trademark colorful characters.

Django himself is a freed slave turned bounty hunter who’ll stop at nothing to rescue the woman he loves. He’s a crack shot with a hot temper who literally has trouble keeping his hands off of his guns during the polite conversations about slaves he’s forced to endure while posing undercover. Foxx plays him in admirably bad ass fashion. Just enough cool to get by, but with a layer of simmering anger unmistakable beneath. Waltz’s Schultz is smug and sharp. Too smart for most of the people he meets by half, and better spoken then all of them, in spite of English being his second language. He’s fine killing his bounties, but has trouble wrapping his head around the concept of slavery. Waltz plays him with his patented brand of bemusement that we’ve come to know and love since “Basterds”. Calvin Candie meanwhile is a detestable villain. Entitled and privileged, he genuinely believes and espouses the inferiority rationales revolving around slavery. DiCaprio imbibes him with a stomach churning smarm… a confidence, cheer and comfort that will disgust your sensibilities. And by his side is Samuel L Jackson’s Stephen, the turncoat to his people who’s made his own life better at the expense of others, and who’s always on the watch for the chance to do it again.

Tarantino takes these characters and puts them together in a violent play, soaked in blood and set to a cool, anachronistic soundtrack. No one sets a better tone than Tarantino, and here the tone is “Bad Ass”. Racism is pervasive and brutal, reflecting Tarantino’s stylized vision of the times. But rest assured that the table is simply being set for vengeance, Tarantino style. If ’09’s “Inglourious Basterds” was a WWII revenge fantasy, this is a Slave Era revenge fantasy with Foxx’s Django as a messenger of death for those who would enslave, sell and abuse human beings. Tarantino, of course, delivers it all with panache. Flashbacks and music and close-ups and slo mo… his inimitable flash is on full display, here, to great effect.

“Django Unchained” is the sort of pulp entertainment I wish we could get more of. Just thought-provoking enough not to be called mindless, directed with confident flair, full of fun characters engaging in polite, deadly conversations before throwing down the gloves and shooting the shit out of everything in sight. Where it will fall in my ranking of Tarantino’s oeuvre is a discussion for another day. For now, it was a wickedly entertaining film served up with style to spare.

A+

Daniel Fogarty

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63 thoughts on “Django Unchained

  1. My favorite film of the year. Loved everything about it. There is just pure cinematic pleasure in every frame of this bad boy and I can’t wait to see it again!

    • Yeah, it was damn good.

      It stands no shot of dethroning Pulp Fiction (one of my top five all time) or Dogs, but I think I’m already ready to put it above “Basterds” and have it square off against the “Bill”s :D

  2. So glad to hear it Fogs. I was going to avoid reading reviews on this until I got a chance to see it myself. Great write up man and I want to see this more than anything else all year. Don’t think I can wait until January. Damn release dates.!!!

  3. I really wanted to like this movie, but I think it may be Tarantino’s worst film yet. It was an overlong, terribly edited, near-mess that failed to justify its existence.

    I certainly enjoyed parts of it, but as a whole I dont think the film works on any level close to what we’re used to from Tarantino. If the last line from Basterds (“I think this is my masterpiece”) was Tarantino talking to his audience, “I just couldnt help myself” would be the Tarantino line of dialogue from this film.

    • Wow. Thats unfortunate, huh?

      Definitely wasn’t too long… I just had one of those (Les Mis, LOL) and this was nothing like that. Terribly edited and Near Mess…. I just dont even know what movie you were watching. LOL. Felt tight to me. And fun as hell. I hope he finally does a sequel! (I know “Bill” was split in two).

  4. I would have liked to see it opening day, but out here in the midwest, going to movies on major holidays is a big thing. Back home, I always went on holidays because the theaters were empty. So I’m waiting on the weekend.

    I’m really looking forward to this. I also read about DiCaprio being uncomfortable and worried that they were going to far a lot of the time. But from the trailers, none of that comes through. Which I think is a testament to his acting skills. He seems very versitile and it will be interesting watching him play a character this vile.

    The only character I didn’t have a good sense of from the trailers was Schultz. Your write up helped clarify some things for me. Great analysis without really giving anything away.

    • Thanks! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

      I can definitely tell why DiCaprio would feel uncomfortable… let me tell you, some of the shit they do is NOT for the squeamish. And they are definitely, evilly, racist bastards here. No doubt…

      But it creates a villain you want to see get his, you know?

  5. It’s exactly the type of flick you’d expect from Tarantino: slick, violent, funny, tense, full of homages, and overall, cool. That’s all you really need and want with a Tarantino flick and that’s why I was glad this flick delivered on all of those elements. Good review Fogs.

    • Yup, yup, yup! Exactly. It’s Tarantino doing what he does best. “slick, violent, funny, tense, full of homages, and overall, cool” is exactly right.

      I’ll swing by to see what you had to say in a bit Dan!

  6. It’s definitely on my must see list, as soon as I can shovel out a crap load of snow from my driveway. I’m over half done.

  7. I knew this was going to be good. Fantastic cast, Tarantino (what else is there to be said?), intriguing plot…can’t wait to see it!

  8. I am an oddball Tarentino fan and like some of his films many dont and visa versa. I hear this just channels a lot of the story telling feel and flow of Inglorious Basterds. Which is a film I like. Going to have to see it myself a see if that is the case.

    Great insight Fogs!

    • It reminded me of IB in some ways, yeah. Mainly in th way I mentioned in the review… people seem to have a lot of pleasant conversations with lives hanging in the balance. You know, they’re talking about one thing, but both sides are scanning the other for signs of weakness and cracks in their stories, etc…

      IB was full of that, and there are several scenes here as well.

      I think thats where the similarities might end though. Check it out. You’ll like it. I’m sure.

  9. Glad this is getting such high praise from you, Fogs… Tarantino certainly does “cool” in movies very well, but I’m always wondering if it’s going to completely run aground one of these days. Good to know this isn’t that day.

  10. Damn man. How many movies have you seen this week? lol I hope you’re taking notes to keep them strait or they’ll all be a jumble by the time the next TPMP comes around!

    So this is good? Cool. I hope to see it Saturday.

    • They’re already mush in my noggin’ . LOL :D Nah, I’ll figure out something to say about them.

      Busy week, I’ve actually even been to two I still havent posted reviews of… But hey. This is the mission I’ve chosen, you know? So…

      Plus, this is hell time. From Mid Dec – mid Jan is going to be the busiest time of year for FMR/TPMP. Between the Holiday season releases, limited release awards bait going wide and all the year end stuff, now is the time to keep the nose to the grindstone!

      Betting you like Django, I thought it was great. Tarantino does it again.

  11. This is the first Tarantino film I’ve seen and I loved it! Though I did think it was too long. One question though, does the blood always do that?
    Anyway, I did love this film. Especially Schultz, that guy was fantastic! He was so hilarious and just generally awesome. I love how he started out as like a mentor to Django and then ended up being more like a sidekick, I though that was cool. I loved the relationship between those two, that thing towards the end was really touching.
    The performances were fantastic across the board. The dialogue was also fantastic and just the general concept was pretty brilliant. On one hand I’m like “who would think of that?” and on the other I’m like “why didn’t someone think of this before?”
    So I made a deal with myself that if I liked Django then I would watch some more Tarantino films, so which ones do I watch now?

    • Heh. Well, sometimes he has some fun with… spattering blood. :D Cool huh? Gotta just… go with it.

      Get on Pulp Fiction and Resevoir Dogs right away! They’re my two favorites, although they’re all very very good. I havent crossed paths with one of his movies yet I didn’t like, though “Deathproof” (part of the “Grindhouse” double bill) came the closest.

      His movie are all fun as hell. Violent, too, but wickedly fun! Hope you love ‘em as much as I do! :D

  12. I totally left my house on Christmas to go watch this movie. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. My local AMC does these $6 movies on Tuesday, which happened to land on Xmas. I get there and there is a line wrapped around the building. AND there was even a longer line to get into the parking lot. FAIL! LOL. I’ll come back when I watch the movie. I’m sure it’s GLORIOUS!

    • OH wow. LOL. That’s a bummer! Good grief!

      Dont worry, it’ll be out for awhile, you’ll have plenty of chances…

      And yeah, please do, I’d love to hear what you think. I know I loved it. I had a big old smile on my face at many many points down the homestretch when Django was kicking ass!

  13. Love the fact you used the word “panache” after its hilarious use in Django! I issue a challenge to have you use that word in your next 2 reviews as well. :)

    I liked Django a lot more than I expected to. And I even rated it highly though I had issues with it. I like the way you describe the characters in this review, man. Check out my Open Letter to Quentin Tarantino when you get a chance.

    http://thefocusedfilmographer.com/2012/12/28/review-django-unchained-an-open-letter-to-quentin-tarantino/

  14. Like you said, I’d be curious to see where this falls in your rankings of tarantino’s work. I’d have to say it’s currently tied for second with Reservoir dogs after Pulp Fiction. In any case, glad to see that A+ score, love the shoutout to the soundtrack as well :)

  15. Awesome review! I’ll see it in January and I can’t wait. The trailer looks bad ass and DiCaprio and Waltz look like they are having some awesome fun in this.

    I don’t like Foxx very much, but I only hated one of Tarantino’s films – Death Proof – so chances are I will enjoy this one.

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