This last summer when Sight & Sound released their annual “directors’ lists”, many of the films were exactly what we would expect to see. Each famous director said which 10 films had influenced them in their own careers. Of course when you look at Quentin Tarantino’s list, the selections were a bit unusual, in comparison. When watching Tarantino’s latest tour de force, “Django Unchained” (2012), it is important to remember that he selected Sergio Leoni’s epic, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966) as one of his 10 most influential films of all time. Of all the important and significant films that have been made, Quentin Tarantino holds this spaghetti western closer to his heart then most of the renowned films we have come to expect on these types of lists. With that in mind, everyone who watches “Django Unchained” should at least somewhat know what they are getting themselves into.
Set in 1858, “Django Unchained” centers around bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). While looking for a trio of outlaws know as “the Brittle bothers”, Schultz finds a former slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who can recognize them. They work so well together that they begin a bounty hunting partnership through the winter, with the understanding that in the spring Schultz will help Django find his displaced wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). They discover that Broomhilda has been sold to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), and she is at his enormous plantation known as Candieland. Django and Schultz devise a plan to recover Broomhilda, but didn’t plan on Candie’s trusted house slave, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), uncovering their plot.
To call Quentin Tarantino’s opus of violence and blood anything but a marvel in filmmaking would just be a lie. He has a way of showing us more than we want to see at every available moment, and even though we are horrified and disgusted, we still can’t stop watching. His action scenes seem larger than life (and not just because of the extreme amounts of blood). Tarantino is a magnificent storyteller, and even if it isn’t a story someone thinks they want to see, he has continuously proven throughout his career that he can make any story entertaining. His sense of humor is so strong and dark, yet there is no denying that his script delivers at every possible moment. There is a scene where a group of men with sheets over their faces sit and argue about whether or not they can see, while riding their horses to a lynching. The scene goes on longer than you would think, but with each passing moment it just gets more hilarious to listen to the men bicker. (Including Quentin Tarantino himself in one of two small roles.)
From the film’s title, poster and previews it appears to be about Django, but in a surprising turn of events, it is Christoph Waltz that steals the show. His character has the distinction of not only being wildly funny, but also an immense amount of soul and heart. He’s a bounty hunter with a heart of gold, and in a movie packed with slavery as a topic, Dr.Schultz is the most upset and disgusted by the concept. Schultz evolves throughout the film, and even though he appears to be a man with no morals (hunting other humans), he has more compassion and true humanity than the rest of the film’s cast. Christoph Waltz has proven that he was born to be in Quentin Tarantino movies, as he has been nominated for an Academy Award for this film after having won an Academy Award for Tarantino’s last film, “Inglorious Basterds” (2009). Waltz’s performance is beyond what one would expect, and he steals the show from the rest of the already great cast. Let’s just hope Tarantino continues to write great roles for him in the future.
Something that I have always found slightly amusing about many of Tarantino’s films is that although he is influenced by, and continuously pays homage to more obscure movies, his actual films have a quality to them that is unexpected. To have a spaghetti western/pre-Civil War slave film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (not to mention four other nominations) seems ludicrous. Add in the fact that this film is extremely profane and violent, and the possibility becomes harder to believe, but because Tarantino makes his films with such superior filmmaking ability, even an action western film such as this can look and feel like a spectacular masterpiece; and that is what he has done with “Django Unchained”.Back to Home for More Reviews