Equally loved and hated for his indulgent stylistics, Quentin Tarantino is the proper definition of an auteur. Often regarded for classics like Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, and Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino specializes in a unique visual identity, and his signature long conversations that showcase his writing. I can only speak for myself, but no one writes dialogue better than he does. After flirting with spaghetti western undertones in Basterds, it seemed only obvious that his next would be a full on, gritty western. However, the question still remained: Would it translate well to the screen? Let’s put it this way. If you’re not a fan of his style, this won’t change your mind. If you are a fan, you’ll probably have a blast with Django Unchained.
We open in the 1850’s, where German dentist turned bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) purchases the freedom of a slave named Django (Jame Foxx). Schultz teaches Django - the D is silent – the ways of bounty hunting, and the two ride into various towns killing wanted criminals. In exchange for helping him with this job, Schultz offers to help Django find his missing wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is currently in the possession of the unpredictable land and slave owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
If you’ve seen any of Tarantino’s other films, you know what you can expect here. He is very indulgent in his own stylistics, supplying the movie with over the top humor, anachronistic music, and a slight air of silliness to it. Needless to say, it’s not perfect... but, that’s why I love it so much. The movie’s imperfections are its charms, and even if I have a few nit-picks, criticizing Tarantino for indulgence would be like criticizing the winter for being cold. I adore the direction he was going for this movie, and the overall tone and technical prowess offers much to be admired.
As always, Tarantino’s writing is the highlight. Once again, he uses his extended conversations well, building up the tension of each one to hold one’s attention. You can never predict when a character may go flying off the handle, and what that may entail. Tense, character rich, and gritty, the movie also fully delves into the issues of racism with uncompromising detail. Tarantino also finds a way to mix in well placed humor, with an argument over white hoods that made me ache with laughter. The movie is pretty long, about 2 and three quarter hours, but it’s surprisingly easy to sit through until it’s over. It’s certainly one of the most entertaining movies I’ve watched all year.
The cast is equally impressive, all selling the traits and personalities of their characters. Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz are both impressive, cool, and share an easy chemistry, Waltz in particular selling much needed comic relief. Samuel L. Jackson, a Tarantino staple, gets to steal the scene as Calvin Candie’s seedy and suspicious right hand man Stephen. Then we get down to Leonardo DiCaprio. For a long time, DiCaprio has been an actor who really seemed to take himself too seriously when it came to roles. Here, he gives probably his best performance since The Aviator. It’s so much fun seeing him play such a delightfully wicked and viciously comical villain, providing him with the dramatic break that was perfect for him. He’s chewing the scenery, and having a blast with it.
Like I said, this is not a perfect film, but it is pure Tarantino. Those who love that will eat it up, while others may not get too into it. The fact still remains that Django Unchained is constantly entertaining, varying on the eye of the beholder, of course. One of the year’s best. Adult supervision is required...
***** / *****