Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
The American slavery system exposed just how evil and brutal individuals can be all while holding a bible in their hand and going to church on Sundays. It really makes you wonder if they read the same book as everyone else. Because of the limited power of the slaves, revenge probably came at a premium, if documented records indicate as such. With Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino attempts to provide it in a gory way only he could do and he certainly succeeds in the endeavor.
Living as a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx) gets forcefully sold to bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and will gain his freedom if he helps Schultz complete his latest job. After its completion, they set off to save his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who was sold to a demented plantation down in Mississippi.
Any Tarantino film set in times where the n-word was used with any sort of regularity will certainly find its way plenty of times in his scripts, which may put off some viewers from this thrilling feature. However, the use of it in the story gets used for the intended purposes of showing the pure unadulterated racism the people of this time spewed, but also how they had nothing more productive to say. It’s fair to say those who owned slaves in the south did not carry many smart genes. The different individuals Django and Schultz interact with may vary in the level of violence they inflict upon others but they certainly had a collective IQ of 1, which explains their vocabulary.
The journey leading up to the Mississippi plantation where Broomhilda’s held allows for plenty of bonding between Django and Schultz and introduces the world of bounty hunting at this time. Dead or alive, these two make a killing (literally) by picking up the bounties, which builds the titular character’s combat ability to whip out his gun and take out foes. While he searches to save the love of his life, he navigates in a ruthless world where they shoot down a man in front of his own kid because of the bounty reward. Ruthlessness appears to be an apt world for everything occurring in this film, as it shows the torture Django and Broomhilda experienced after they tried to escape and what will become of our hero if he runs into the wrong crew.
Even with loads of violence and blood splashing everywhere, the comedy employed in this film lands so well nearly on every occasion with the best occurring with the meeting of the semblance of an early KKK group. This scene, in particular, does not speak on the smarts of these racist men very well but it also demonstrates the importance of properly cutting eye holes in masks. Everything that happens with this group of garbage serves as comedic gold, especially when they meet a satisfying end.
While being a story about a slave getting revenge, Django Unchained also has no issue addressing the complicated Black folks perpetuating and assisting this racist system of slavery. From the slavers who would assist the white men to the house slaves, eager to be the first one to collect the scraps from the dinner table while belittling the field slaves. Samuel L. Jackson absolutely knocks it out of the park with his portrayal of Stephen. The level of anger seething from this man whenever he lays eyes on Django can be felt through the screen. His work as Stephen compliments perfectly with the atypical Leonardo DiCaprio role of Calvin Candie. Fully taking on a heavily villainous role, DiCaprio truly goes for it in depicting this intriguing yet despicable slave owner. Nearly everything he says can be converted to a pound of gold. From “Gentlemen, you had my curiosity, now you have my attention” to “Sold…to the man with the exceptional beard and his exceptional [expletive],” he drops dimes for his entire tenure in the film.
As with nearly every Tarantino film, it carries a large runtime but the pacing of it has the narrative zip on by. Even the slow moments where quiet conversations occur carry enough intrigue to push the story forward. On my initial viewing, it felt like the final 30 minutes could have been chopped off for the benefit of the story, but experiencing it for a second time proved my concern to be invalid. A top-notch crafted film and another western where Tarantino works within the genre to use its tropes and adds his own distinct style to it. This work cannot be confused for anyone else, and rightfully so because it takes someone who loves film as much as Tarantino to pull in so many deep cut references into such a bombastic feature such as this one.