Django Unchained Movie Review
Written by James Ferguson
Movie released by The Weinstein Company
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino
2012, 165 minutes, Rated R
Movie released on December 28th, 2012
Jamie Foxx as Django
Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz
Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie
Kerry Washington as Broomhilda von Shaft
Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen
Walton Goggins as Billy Crash
Don Johnson as Big Daddy
I'll admit that I've fallen out of the loop when it comes to movies lately. I've been in a comic book daze, so unless there's a radioactive spider or a man from Krypton, the flick isn't on my radar. Such was the case with Django Unchained, the latest from Quentin Tarantino. I knew nothing about the film outside of the fact that it existed and that it was kind of long. That didn't stop me from attending a screening of the film and I'm glad I did.
Django Unchained centers on the title character (Jamie Foxx), a former slave who is purchased by a traveling dentist / bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). He needs Django's help to identify three brothers so he can collect their bounty. Along the way, Schultz grows fond of Django and teaches him the ways of killing people for money. He also decides to help him find his lost wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who has been sold to a plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
I've liked most of Tarantino's work, however I was very disappointed with Inglourious Basterds. It just didn't do it for me. It felt like overkill and the music was boring. Judging from Django Unchained, Tarantino has learned from his work on Basterds and improved upon it.
Django Unchained goes through waves of story in its two-plus hour runtime. You have the bonding between Schultz and Django, the infiltration of "Candie Land," and the rescue of Broomhilda. Each of these is a full-fledged adventure and could have been a movie in and of itself. I was actually surprised that despite its long runtime, I never felt that the movie dragged. The pace of the film is steady and it never gets boring.
Jamie Foxx is really the heart and soul of the film. He plays the title character, so he should have this position. He brings so much emotion to each scene he's in and he does it without saying a lot. There's a lot going on in just a look. His eyes say more than enough. Throughout the journey of Django, I found myself so close to the character. You see his transformation from a beat down slave to a smart and talented bounty hunter.
While Foxx is the focus of Django Unchained, he has to work extra hard to avoid having the film stolen from under him by Christoph Waltz. He's a powerhouse every time he shows up on the screen. It's not that he's chewing scenery or even especially intimidating. It's his line delivery that makes him incredibly interesting to watch. Waltz was the one thing I really liked about Inglourious Basterds, so I was glad to see him again. He has a way of speaking that draws you in. It's very purposeful. Every single thing that comes out of his mouth is said for a reason. At first his speech is humorous, which catches the audience as well as the characters off guard. They don't expect someone like this out in the middle of Texas. This is all part of the character's act. He first appears on screen riding a horse drawn cart with a huge tooth bouncing about on the roof. It's ridiculous and it's made even more so as he tries to address a pair of ignorant cowboys with sophisticated words that have more than two syllables. It makes his subsequent acts all the more surprising and yet more satisfying.
The music throughout Django Unchained also stands out. As I mentioned above, I felt that Tarantino missed something with the soundtrack for Inglourious Basterds. I guess because it was a period piece, he tried to use songs from that era. This was unfortunate as his films are known for great soundtracks. Django Unchained is a return to his prior films as he uses a variety of genres to aid in the storytelling. It can be a little jarring at first to hear a hip hop song come on while Django is blasting through a horde of cowboys, but it just works. The score also matches perfectly to the action on the screen.
What actually surprised me about the film is the humor. I did not expect this to be funny at all. Sure, there could be a couple of humorous lines here and there, but this is a movie about slavery and revenge. It shouldn't be a laugh-fest, right? I wasn't rolling in the aisles, but this movie is damn funny. Tarantino manages to point out how ridiculous the thought processes were in this time period. There's a scene where the would be Ku Klux Klan are hunting down Schultz and Django after they captured a bounty. They all have bags on their heads, but they didn't think through how difficult it would be to ride horses while wearing them in the dark. They can't see and get into a huge argument about it. A scene like this sounds like it belongs in a slapstick movie, but it fits very well in Django Unchained.
Oh! I forgot to talk about the violence. There's a lot of that. Have you ever seen a Sam Peckinpah western? You know how insanely bloody they can be? Picture that times a million and you might have an idea of how much blood and gore are spilled throughout the movie. It's often over-the-top and ridiculous, but it never hurts the film.
The only thing I really didn't like about Django Unchained was Tarantino himself. He pops up towards the end as a ranch hand. He's accompanied by some Australian and the amazing Michael Parks (Red State). Tarantino struggles to do some sort of bizarre half Australian accent and sounds like he's create a character. Everyone in the flick comes through very natural except for him...you know...because they're actors. Of course, it doesn't help that Parks is in the same scene acting circles around him and his big head.
Django Unchained is a return to the Tarantino I dug years ago. The story is tight and incredibly entertaining. The acting is top notch by all involved (except for the director). The soundtrack is great. The violence is crazy. This is a fun movie. I haven't had this much fun in a theater since I saw Hobo with a Shotgun. See this with a group of people and you won't be disappointed.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screening.