The use of brutal violence and general vulgarity in Quentin Tarantino’s movies can be seen as either a method for creating cheap thrills or a commitment to an artistic vision. Django Unchained doesn’t sway the argument one way or the other, but is perhaps the most polarizing film he’s done so far.
Django Unchained is Tarantino’s take on a Western. That being said, it’s not a particularly good representation of the genre. Historical inaccuracies run rampant, and a majority of the film isn’t spent in the Old West, but in the deep South. Don’t worry though; this unfocused devotion to the genre shouldn’t be of concern. Tarantino didn’t set out to make a Western. He set out to make a Tarantino movie. Tarantino movies have certain qualities that can’t be found in other places or made to fit in specific genres. Quentin knows a good idea when he sees one. Maybe that explains why his latest film, Django Unchained, feels similar in general concept to his last one, Inglorious Basterds.
In that previous film, Tarantino spun a tale of Jewish-American soldiers hunting down Nazis. This time it’s a black man gunning down slave owners. Both films have Christoph Waltz (albeit, on opposite sides of the table) playing the seasoned expert who uses smooth-talking and a polite attitude to cover up his sinister motivations and true intentions. Neither film tries, nor wants to be, too serious despite some fairly heavy subject matter. It’s a take no prisoners approach to film making. For Tarantino’s devoted fans, that is a good thing. Those people wanting to see a Tarantino movie will not be disappointed.
If you are not already aware, this unrestrained approach means that it is not uncommon for a Tarantino movie to be controversial. For the most part, that controversy usually stems from the relentless and often unrestrained violence that his films are most known for. Starting with Basterds, however, Tarantino began experimenting with horrific moral dilemmas as methods by which to make the audience squirm in their seats. But this is not Shindler’s List. Tarantino does not appear to be using this façade to make his audience reflect upon the horrors that man is capable of. Tarantino is simply using this as an excuse for violence, which equates to entertainment.
Such is the biggest dilemma with Django Unchained. The film is meant as a thrilling adventure approached with reckless abandon, yet has moments of outright offensive and seemingly insensitive material. It’s a matter of perspective if you feel that the light-hearted comedic moments which Tarantino sprinkles throughout are enough to counter these depressing ones. This isn’t necessarily new to the inner workings of any Tarantino film, but Django stabs bit farther into that sensitive spot than anything previous. Fans will find this to be Tarantino’s most entertaining film yet. Detractors will hate it more than anything else he’s done.
Story: Dr. King Schultz is a bounty hunter who frees a slave named Django to help him track down his next job. Schultz finds out that Django is very apt at this line of work so he agrees to help him rescue his enslaved wife in return for becoming his partner. Does the duo have what it takes to successfully rescue Django’s wife, or are their ulterior motives working against them?.....Good (8.8/10)
Acting: Jamie Foxx is well cast as Django. Even if his character’s background is a little flimsy, he finds a way to flush it out and win the audience’s hearts. Christoph Waltz plays Dr. Schultz, and although he is quite good in this role, you don’t ever feel like he’s doing much more than he did in Inglorious Basterds. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a wealthy plantation owner and owner of Django’s wife. DiCaprio is as strong as always and makes for a formidable counter to Christoph Waltz’s character. Samuel L. Jackson plays a strong supporting role. The rest of the cast (which includes Tarantino himself) is passable if a bit unspectacular. Good (8.0/10)
Direction: This film felt more fluid and natural than any previous Tarantino film. There is less juxtaposition between scenes and stylish interludes are kept to a minimum. I have a feeling that this is mostly due to the rather linear plotline and no need to cut back and forth between different sets of characters as Tarantino used for story telling purposes in his previous films. Still, Tarantino needs to show more restraint and consistency. The first half of the film is cut and styled like a spaghetti Western, but the second half is more generic. Whether or not this was done on purpose is difficult to tell because the story itself changes settings halfway through. Also some of the flashback sequences felt forced and oddly placed. Okay (7.2/10)
Special Effects/X-Factor: When the action picks up it is as violent and gruesome as you’d expect it to be. Blood is not foreign to Tarantino, actually it’s somewhat of an artistic trademark. Here it seems even more fitting in a story about gritty gunslingers. The music selection of Tarantino’s films is always odd but somehow fitting. This film is no exception to that rule. As an overview though, the lasting impact of this movie will depend on your individual tolerance of Tarantino’s antics. No, it’s not a better film than Pulp Fiction, but it manages have more exciting moments than anything else that Tarantino has done. Of course, this excitement comes with much controversy. Only time will tell if Tarantino is pushing the envelope or going too far. Good (9.6/10)
Rating: (8.4/10) = B (A Must See)
· What’s Good: Tarantino is able to create many exciting situations for his well-acted characters. Tarantino himself does a decent job as director mostly thanks to a straightforward story and good pacing. Fans of his films will find plenty of things to smile about.
· What’s Bad: The movie does feel a little long, there is a sense of déjà vu at times, and Tarantino is off his rocker as always. The often comedic handling of controversial subject matter won’t be approved by everyone.
Verdict: Unchained is a fitting title.