Throughout the past few months’ busy season of film releases, audiences have been filing into Django Unchained theaters with high expectations for director Quentin Tarantino’s newest blockbuster about slavery and the violent conflict that surrounded it.
Weighing in at two hours and forty-five minutes, Django is clearly not a short movie. The action, however, is fast-paced and irresistible to watch. Tarantino’s newest film is definitely one to see before Hollywood rolls out the Oscar red carpet.
“I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard really great things about the acting, the soundtrack, and the shock value,” said sophomore Max Pendergast. “I love Tarantino films and I can’t wait to see what he does with this one!”
Tarantino’s vision was to create “a southern,” that is, a spaghetti western, that deals with the issues of slavery in the South. He has been quoted saying he didn’t want to make a “big-issue movie,” but he still wanted to grapple with the guilt America still feels today about the times of slavery, specifically in the South.
The plot centers on the character Django (Jamie Foxx), a recently freed slave who enters into a bounty-hunting partnership with Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). In the first half of the movie, the two men travel to find and kill the notorious Brittle brothers, as well as a host of other criminals. The second half deals with Django and Dr. Shultz searching for Django’s enslaved wife.
It is during this search for Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), that the movie reaches its full potential. This is due mostly to the arrival of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), an extravagantly rich and sadistic plantation owner. DiCaprio is so charming as he welcomes his new guests that we almost forget the evil of his enterprise. We are quickly reminded of his true nature as Candie guides Django and Schultz through a shiver-inducing tour of “Candie-land,” his plantation.
The acting overall is superb. Most notably, Waltz delights as a quirky, morally righteous killing machine. He is as articulate as he is deadly, which is incredibly fun to watch. His win for Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes comes as no surprise.
“Waltz’s presence on camera is highly theatrical, and it is clear that his style matches that of Tarantino,” commented senior Jeremy Cronon on Waltz’s win.
Commenting on the film’s win for Best Screenplay, Cronon continues, “That same style is obvious in the screenplay. Tarantino is over the top, but the screenplay plays on so much cinematic history that it finds grounding in the folks that have come before.”
Other great performances throughout the epic include that of Samuel L. Jackson as Candie’s distrusting henchman-slave, Stephen, as well as that of the ever-hilarious Jonah Hill as a mob member.
The music in Django is a character in itself. From classic spaghetti western music to 2Pac, the music in this movie matches the variety of film genres that Tarantino intertwines. The soundtrack is a must-have, especially because of its John Legend R&B tune, which captures the soul of the movie perfectly.
Great acting, great screenplay, great music…so what’s the catch? This movie is ferociously violent. Django has the kind of grisly, indulgent violence from the slave-owners that makes viewers shy away from the screen. There are a handful of scenes that will haunt you if you don’t look away.
Is the violence gratuitous? Sophomore Jordan Becker doesn’t think so.
“Yes, it was difficult to watch, but there wasn’t violence just for violence’s sake.” This is true; the shocking images fulfill their purpose of revealing the stakes that were present in every day life in the South.
However, Becker concedes, “Some of it didn’t totally make sense. It felt like Tarantino wanted to have his shoot out.”
Django is indeed very long and very violent, yet the film manages to be one of the best movies of the year. It propels the audience through a slew of emotions: hilarity, gruesomeness, and a redemption story for the ages all at once.
Upon leaving the Django theater, most people are not quite sure what they have just experienced. Django Unchained is Tarantino uncensored, and, as one critic puts it, is full of “strange and brilliant magic.”