Along with Moonrise Kingdom, Django Unchained was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. This is due to the fact that I’m a big fan of Quentin Tarantino. I’ve loved almost everything he’s done, and never hated anything he’s put out. As great as Tarantino is, Pulp Fiction will always remain his finest – he’ll never top that. This doesn’t mean he can’t still make some excellent movies. His previous film, Inglourious Basterds, was exceptional and interesting; now, another dark history subject is touched on, slavery. I wonder if this is becoming a thing for him… In one of his interview for the film, he mentioned he would most likely tackle something of that nature again. What I like about Django Unchained is it works on an entertaining level while also going beyond that. Was going in with expectations skyrocketing through the roof, and while not a masterpiece, some true greatness is there.
Taking place in the mid-1800s, a bounty hunter/dentist by the name of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) tracks down a slave named Django. He needed Django to locate and identify the three Brittle brothers whom have a very large bounty on their heads. In return, Schultz will give Django his freedom. Along the way, it’s apparent that Django is quite good at this profession. Both of them form a bond and when Schultz learns that Django is in search of his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who he lost in slave trade some time ago. The search eventually leads to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) – the owner of “Candyland”, an infamous plantation. Posing as investors in a “Mandingo fighting” racket, Django and Schultz hope to get Broomhilda out. Unfortunately, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) – Candie’s highly trusted house slave – starts get suspicious…
Quentin Tarantino, of course, wrote and directed. All aspects of his direction are familiar to anyone who has seen a few of his movies, and all work here. Although editing and cinematography is great delivering some outstanding shots of locations, editing issues would pop up. This is a simple story compared to what Tarantino usually does, though. A lot of time he’ll jump back and forth in time in unique ways. Here, aside from a short flash back or two, it’s a regular story, in the sense of structuring. The real story doesn’t even come into play about an hour in. At first, it is a master teaching the student bounty hunter buddy comedy dealing with slavery. Then, it changes into a revenge slash break out movie. The first hour was working for me; the sudden change didn’t come very natural. When you get used to, though, it’s works out.
The screenplay almost reaches perfection. Tarantino has an ear for conversation; he knows how to construct scenes with perfect dialog. The first scene featuring Schultz talking to some guys way below his intelligence level is such a good scene; really kicks things off with a bang. After DiCaprio’s character reaches a certain point, he spews out all these interglacial ideas about different things and you feel compelled to listen hard. Also, one of the funniest scenes in the movie involves talk of poorly gut eye-holes in their masks – had me cracking up. Tarantino is known for dialog, and he doesn’t disappoint in that aspect. The drama and comedy balance each other out.
The acting is phenomenal by everyone. If the movie was dragging a bit, the performances would always at least still have your attention. Jamie Foxx is the fourth best in the cast, but he has the title role and never misses a beat. Foxx completely sells you on the character of Django and is consistence all the way through. Man, it seems no one aside from Tarantino knows how to use Christoph Waltz! Seriously, he has potential to give Oscar caliber performances every time if you use him correctly. Here, he is remarkable. All of his lines are delivered in a special kind of way – just can’t describe it. Samuel L. Jackson is no stranger to Tarantino. When Jackson first appears he’s really funny. But, he takes a different turn and crafts a great all-around performance. Leonardo DiCaprio easily gives one of the better supporting performances of the year. Might not be the absolute best, but I could see him winning the Oscar. DiCaprio is one of my favorite actors, never though, has he played a straight up villain. He’s funny, charming, sneaky, and captivating to watch – you can’t take your eyes off him.
The “real” action doesn’t click into high gear until the climax. When it does, boy was it violent. Now, I’ve never been one to be disgusted or have violence effect me. It does happen, but it’s rare. In this case, it can be classified sort of like a cartoon. Watching though, it can get a tad disturbing. This is to be expected, Tarantino isn’t one to shy away from violence. Overall, the action was handled well.
As I mentioned earlier, my expectations were through the roof. While Django Unchained excellent, it still had even more potential. The running time is around three hours. Now, I don’t mind long movies for the most part. At times, it would drag and you could tell. However, when I thought about what should have been cut, nothing logical came to mind. Whenever a movie is too long, I always think about what should have been cut. If nothing can be thought of, then it had to be a long movie to convey everything it wanted to. Some potential was left chained, but still extremely well done and one heck of a good time.