It’s that time again. We take virtually everything we ever learned in the history class into a movie theater and sit down to watch an alternative view of the facts, as they would have happened if according to Mr. Quentin Tarantino. Last time this happened we got the sharply scripted and astonishingly masterful Inglourious Basterds, which seals its spot as one of my all time favorite movies. Since his glory days, which consisted of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Tarantino has made a total of four films that are usually separated from his earlier works by the film going public as two completely different categories, given that nothing can come close to those Tarantino classics. First was the 2003 hit Kill Bill: Volume 1, which was followed by Kill Bill: Volume 2 in 2004. Those two films, while not regarded his best, were and still remain to be stylized classics in regards to the over the top gore and high octane violence. Then, five years later, Tarantino wrote and directed the first installment of his take on alternative histories, taking on the subject of Nazism in the sharp scripted massive achievement that was Inglourious Basterds. Now it’s time to saddle up again with his new ride, Django Unchained, the slavery mocking comedy that is surely and unapologetically one of his most controversial films, but it is also one of the absolute best movies of the entire year.
The disputatious plot of Django Unchained centers around a male slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who a few years before the civil war was freed by a dentist turned bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds). Django is promised that if he can lead Schultz to the famous wanted Brittle Brothers, a set of slave owners that are wanted by law, he will make him a permanently free man and will also take him to a plantation called Candyland, owned by Calvin Candy (a ferocious Leonardo DiCaprio), where his long lost wife (Kerry Washington) was sold. From there we have our movie, which starts right off with some killer dialogue (as could be expected from any Tarantino flick) and a massive amount of gory, hyper stylized, over the top, and, well, just typical Tarantino style violence. I have no shame in saying that the Inglourious Basterds director hasn’t lost his touch because Django Unchained is sure to go down in history as another Tarantino masterpiece.
Let’s kick things off with the cast; one that sizzles with unforeseen ferocity. Jamie Foxx plays the main role of Django and does a fantastic job doing so. Tarantino throws a lot of slave torturing scenes in this film and Foxx’s gut wrenching performance drives this movie to its highest magnitude. Second up is Dr. King Schultz played by the phenomenal Christoph Waltz. I am one of those people who found Waltz’s profoundly unsettling and perpetually disturbing performance as Colonel Hans Landa to be one of the most riveting characters ever written and performed for the screen. Even though his character was basically a one hundred percent dialogue driven one in Basterds, Waltz, winning an Oscar for his work, made that character into something legendary. Now he returns under Tarantino’s direction, this time as a protagonist as opposed to an antagonist. He helps Django, and quite frankly, he steals every scene he is in. I would venture to say he should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor at this year’s ceremony. Thanks largely to the brilliant writing of Quentin Tarantino, Waltz’s character is astounding in almost every way, especially in his eloquence of speech, which forms his character into an enormously and outrageously entertaining one. Also in this miracle of a cast is Leonardo DiCaprio. Man is this guy on a roll. Having the opportunity to work under the direction of the legendary Martin Scorsese in Shutter Island in 2010, Christopher Nolan in 2010’s masterpiece that was Inception, and Clint Eastwood in last year’s J. Edgar, it is undeniable that DiCaprio has morphed himself into some kind of star. Now, he gets to work under the great Quentin Tarantino, and how was he? Well, like everyone else that is on camera during a Tarantino directed film, he has an absolute blast, stealing every scene he is in. That being said, I don’t mean that as in he is a happy person to watch. He is actually one of the most absorbing villains and grossly disturbing characters I’ve seen in a film all year. DiCaprio deserves an Oscar nomination here as he wraps himself in some sort of cloak of unperceivable harrowing tranquility. He gives one of the most entertaining and stand up and swing performances of the entire year. However, I knew going in all of those actors would be great, so it was immensely shocking to me when Samuel L. Jackson made his appearance and rapidly became the show stealer. Practically everything that comes out of the man’s mouth is bust-a-gut hilarious. Notice how I said every character stole the show. It’s not too often you get a movie so good each of the characters are stealing each other’s performances. It’s astounding. Kerry Washington is Django’s long lost wife and does an great job, along with Foxx, at portraying the avid suffering of a beaten and broken slave. The supproting performances are solid all around in Django.
Now I will address the writing and directing by Quentin Tarantino. This is some of the best writing I have ever seen from Tarantino. Much like in Inglourious Basterds, every line of dialogue is written with such certainty and hilarity. There are many scenes in Django Unchained that will surely go down as classic Tarantino moments, including one which I will not spoil, but I will say it involves a group of KKK members having a five minute long argument with each other that had me falling out of my chair due to excessive laughter. There is so much good stuff here, none of it apologetic. Nothing held back. It’s Tarantino. He is the gutsiest writer working. He doesn’t care what the audience thinks or how they recieve it. He just writes it. Which brings me to my next point. A lot of people are angry about the fact that this film has roughly a hundred uses of the word “nigger.” Now, I am white, and I am not racist, and I do not think Quentin Tarantino is racist, either. One must understand the time period in which this film was based on, and that word was used as common tongue in that time. I find it absolutely appalling that people are deciding to lash out at Tarantino because he uses a certain word. I found every use of the word fitting to its situation and very realistic for the time period. Tarantino knows how to write dialogue, and as out of reach as this movie is factually, it doesn’t matter thanks to the crisp and delicious dialogue. As for directing, this is Tarantino directing at his finest. This is a spaghetti-western, and as that statement stands, this is a very, very bloody movie. This is western movie making Tarantino style and every scene of violence and gore has Tarantino written all over it. That being said, not all the violence is glorified. Be warned there are some slave fights in this film and they do become difficult to watch. Also, slaves are brutally inflicted with physical pain that often time becomes excruciating. However, as Tarantino did in Inglourious Basterds for the Jews, he does in Django Unchained for the slaves. It left me with a huge smile on my face that stayed there long after the closing credits. It’s as close to uplifting as uplifting gets – Tarantino style.
Drop the history books. Screw the facts. Take a history lesson with Quentin Tarantino. This is a bloody good time that had a smile on my face from beginning to end. Many have asked if Tarantino can continue to make substantial, and even masterful films. He answers that with a resounding yes, and it comes in the form of Django Unchained. See this movie. I haven’t had so much fun in the theater in a long time. This is one of the best, and funniest, movies of 2012. Django Unchained is a modern day masterpiece.
Run time: 166 mins
Rated: R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language, and some nudity
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel Jackson, and Kerry Washington
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino