Greetings movie lovers.
For the penultimate entry in our Quentin Tarantino director series we come to the Spaghetti Western-inspired Django Unchained (2012). The film is Tarantino’s highest grossing at the box office if arguably not his most beloved work; that honour still goes to Pulp Fiction. For the original screenplay he picked up an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. Not too shabby at all.
With a SPOILER ALERT let us dive into our review in four easy to chew and digest slices:
#1 The Foxx, the Waltz and the Leo
One thing about Tarantino is that he gets some fantastic performances out of his actors and in Django Unchained that is fully on display. Jamie Foxx, who plays the titular ex-slave turned bounty hunter, is terrific which is no surprise giving his Academy award-winning turn in the biopic Ray. Christoph Waltz returns for his second consecutive Tarantino film and as the sage dentist turned bounty hunter Dr King Schultz gives another Academy award winning performance. He basically steals the show.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who I contend gets better with every movie he does, is brilliant as the charming but wicked slave owner Calvin J. Candie. Kerry Washington and frequent Tarantino collaborator Samuel L. Jackson round off a stellar cast.
#2 Shooting the breeze
I may sound like a broken record but I love the way Tarantino writes dialogue. It is like a thrilling tennis match but with words bounced back and forth instead of balls. The chats between Django and Shultz are fresh and witty. And the verbal fencing match between Shultz and Candie, before Shultz murders the offensive racist slave master, is just plain brilliant.
As with all Tarantino films there is an abundance of profanity but unique to this film is the preponderance of the n-word. This stirred up some controversy but it did make sense with the story. And for me hearing the word so often in the film it eventually became white noise.
#3 Once upon a time in the West
Django Unchained is one of Tarantino’s best movies visually. The horrors and violence is balanced by a vivid colour palette and some bright costuming. From the dusty plains to the crimson saturated walls of Candyland the film is quite the visual treat. And in the gunfight scenes the blood splatters and splashes like the audience is on a macabre water park ride.
#4 Final act bloodbath
It is a Western and also a Tarantino film so stylized bloody gunplay was guaranteed. The action in the film is exciting and there is certainly enough to please any Western fan. But I will admit that after Schultz’s death the gunfights were a bit much. The mansion massacre also left me feeling a bit hollow and was too paint by numbers, which is not what you expect in a Tarantino film.
As with the scalping and brutal killing of Nazis in Inglourious Basterds the killing of slave owners and white folk works as revenge fantasy, though in both films their respective historical horrors are presented just on a surface level.
Overall Django Unchained is a fun modern Western and one of Tarantino’s best.
Rating: We give it 3.5/4 aborted handshakes.
So what did you think of Django Unchained? And what is your favourite Tarantino film? Feel free to comment below.