Quentin Tarantino has a polarizing effect among moviegoers — either you love his work, or you hate it. Starting from 1994’s Pulp Fiction, Tarantino has made a career out of lovingly mimicking his favorite films while creating a style entirely his own to become one of the most loved and hated filmmakers of his generation.
Django Unchained, Tarantino’s latest opus, is no different. While many critics are already praising the film, many filmmakers (like Spike Lee) and moviegoers are bashing it for being racist and too violent. While the latter criticism may be valid at times, the film does take place two years before the American Civil War, so calling the film racist may be a bit hyperbolic. However, despite its leanings towards the ultraviolent, the film is still genius.
Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) has turned his back on dentistry, and has become a bounty hunter for the US Government. On one particular job, he needs to track down three brothers in the slaving business and bring them in, dead or alive. The problem is he doesn’t know what he looks like. Luckily, he finds Django (Christoph Waltz), a slave who happens to know the three brothers, and, after Dr. Schultz pays for his freedom, offers to help, not only in this job, but all others Schultz may get, in exchange to help track down Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is currently owned by notorious slave trader Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Quentin Tarantino, who, as with all his films, wrote and directed this piece, cleverly juxtaposes classic Western themes in his revenge tale, giving it a unique feel than other films covering such topics have had this year, such as Lincoln. Focusing solely on the slave trade in the South rather than the North’s efforts to quell the trade, Tarantino’s love for Western films and penchant for selecting the right song to fit the scene (who would have thought Jim Croce’s “I Got a Name” would work in a Western setting so well?) is able to thrive, making the film a bit tongue-in-cheek, but oddly relevant at the same time.
Much like 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained is a revenge tale, this time showing a former slave rise up and unleash his anger and hatred upon those who would see him and his kind shackled and belittled. As mentioned before, the film is extremely violent, but so are Tarantino’s other films, so this isn’t much of a surprise. In fact, if you going into this film not knowing who Quentin Tarantino is or what his other films were, you’re in for a nasty surprise, and, more than likely, you will not enjoy this film. Just like Basterds or Kill Bill, the violence is so over-the-top, it borders on cartoon-like, and adds to the comedy of the film. The performances of the film are wonderful, with greats like Waltz, Foxx, and DiCaprio, who could very well walk away with Oscar nods, as well as Samuel L. Jackson as Calvin Candie’s uppity slave Stephen, and cameos from Jonah Hill and Tarantino himself, making this one film that shouldn’t be missed.
FINAL VERDICT: Though Quentin Tarantino’s work is, to say the least, an acquired taste, Django Unchained is a quirky, darkly amusing tale of revenge that is one of the most unique cinematic experiences this year, surely ranking it among the greats this year. Perhaps it’s not the most historically accurate film you’ll see all year, but it certainly is one of the most entertaining.