Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson star in the 7th movie from Quentin Tarantino. Django Unchained is the story of a freed slave turned bounty hunter in search for his missing wife. Is Django Unchained another fantastic example of the Tarantino style of story telling or is it just a poor attempt at a Spaghetti Western?
Two years before the start of the American Civil War, Django, a recently purchased slave, is on his way with others in chains on a journey to his new plantation. Out of the shadows of night, a bearded man in a crazy wagon crosses paths with Django and the men in charge of taking him to his new owner. But this isn’t a coincidence. The man introduces himself as Dr. King Schultz, a dentist who happens to be looking for Django. Schultz is actually a bounty hunter and needs information on the identities of the killer Brittle Brothers that only Django can provide. After an altercation, Schultz acquires Django and promises him his freedom as long as he helps in locating the Brittles.
After much success, Django earns his freedom, but decides to partner with Dr. Schultz and become a fellow bounty hunter. Django tells the good doctor that his ultimate goal is to earn enough money to buy back his beloved wife, Broomhilda, a beautiful slave who was raised by a German plantation owner. Broomhilda was separately sold from Django out of punishment for running away. She was shipped to Mississippi to “Candy Land,” the plantation owned by Monsieur Calvin Candie who happens to have a sweet tooth for the bloody sport of Mandingo wrestling. Dr. Schultz agrees to help Django rescue his wife as long as he helps secure enough bounties throughout the winter months. Will Django earn enough money to buy back Broomhilda, or will the barbaric Monsieur Candie have other plans?
Just as Inglorious Basterds was Quentin Tarantino’s homage to classic war movies, Django Unchained is his love letter to the Sergio Leone style of “Spaghetti Westerns” from the 60s. I used to watch movies like My Name is Nobody, Django, The Good The Bad and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars with my grandfather. The movies had iconic music, memorable characters and told fantastical stories of revenge, redemption and betrayal. Django Unchained has every single one of these elements but with the Tarantino touch: tremendous dialog and gratuitous violence. But what makes the film more than a mere vengeance flick is that it is actually a fairy tale disguised as a humble western in the same way that the Star Wars franchise is actually a space opera about a son redeeming his father who fell from grace. The film follows the same principles of the German/Norse legend of Brynhildr. A woman is captured and put on a mountain that’s guarded by a dragon and seven layers of fire. She is eventually saved by her love, Seigfried. Django is Seigfried who rescues Broomhilda. Another story that comes to mind is Dante’s Inferno.
Because of its over the top, tongue-in-cheek racial humor, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles. This is another aspect that makes Django Unchained so entertaining and funny to watch. Specific moments of comedy are perfectly placed to relieve the tension from the brutality of the movie. Just as Cleavon Little rode into town as Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles to white people in shock, Django deals with the same “southern hospitality.” Being German and not understanding pre-civil war American racial mentality, Dr. Schultz questions why all the towns people are staring at them. Django simply responds, “They never seen a n****r on a horse.” It’s these type of dialog exchanges that cut the tension. There is some ungodly levels of racism in the movie that’s pretty accurate to the confederate south, so be warned if you are highly sensitive to N-bombs being dropped. This movie might beat out Roots for the world record for the use of the N-word. One scene in particular that really makes best example of how effective the comedy of the movie is, is the “Klansmen hoods” scene. I don’t want to give away specifics, but the entire audience was laughing their asses off.
I also make the comparisons to Blazing Saddles because of the lead actors’ on screen chemistry and interactions. Jamie Foxx (Django) is mentored by Christoph Waltz (Dr. King Schultz) in the same manner Gene Wilder gave Cleavon Little sage like advice. Even though Foxx has a comedic background, he is almost the straight man to Waltz, who gives some of the best dialog to the hysterically funny moments throughout the film. While the character is not as Oscar worthy as his in Inglorious Basterds, Waltz is a gem on screen due to his perfect timing performing Tarantino’s rapid fire dialog. Now don’t get me wrong, Foxx has a splendid performance, but he clearly is overshadowed by Waltz.
The bad guys in the film are Calvin Candie, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his head house servant aka “HNIC” Stephen, portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. Dicaprio is as charming as he is brutally viscous. He’ll make you’ll giggle as he sips on his coconut cocktail, but then cringe as you experience his blood lust. Calvin Candie is another memorable addition to the Tarantino class of villains such as Zed and Stuntman Mike. Jackson plays Stephen as almost a stereotypical caricature of a southern slave, but with a twist. You’l have to watch the movie to find out what it is, but it is brilliant. Other notable on-screen performances are Don Johnson as Big Daddy, Walton Goggins as Billy Crash, and a special cameo by Franco Nero, the original Django.
What Django Unchained really accomplishes is allowing this generation the ability to get a glimpse into movies from the past. Tarantino once again shows his unparalleled love of cinema as he personifies the spaghetti western genre in the same regards and respect as he accomplished with Death Proof for grindhouse films. He uses the zoom in dramatic camera shots, the iconic music, and classic characters. Another applaudable aspect of the movie is the pacing. For a movie that’s almost three hours long, it didn’t drag and left me wanting more background story and development of the characters. I highly recommend Django Unchained for its action, almost inappropriate humor, and fantastic story. If you are a fan of Tarantino, Spaghetti Westerns, and great story telling, then Django Unchained is a must see this holiday season!
In Theaters: December 25, 2012
Runtime: 2 hr 41 min
Rating: Not Yet Rated by the MPAA
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson
Genre: Action/Adventure, Western
Distributor: The Weinstein Company, Columbia Pictures
Official Site: http://www.unchainedmovie.com
The original 1966 “Django”
A coffin-dragging gunslinger enters a town caught between two feuding factions, the KKK and a gang of Mexican Bandits. That man is Django, and he is caught up in a struggle against both parties.
Directed by Sergio Corbucci – Cinematography by Enzo Barboni – Film Editing by
Nino Baragli & Sergio Montanari
Starring Franco Nero as Django