"Django Unchained" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
In his previous film, "Inglourious Basterds", Quentin Tarantino already proved that he can do a period piece right. So, when his next film, "Django Unchained", was announced, I'm sure there was tons of excitement over his next project, which brought back Christoph Waltz from the aforementioned film, as well as adding in Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx, who have both already proven themselves as world class talents. However, how was Tarantino going to make a film about a slave murdering the white men who mistreat the African Americans in America during the late 1850's? What he delivered, though, was a near-perfect film that had a combination of both lovable and hateful characters, as well as fantastic scenes of dialogue and amazing action sequences.
Waltz plays a dentist named Dr. King Schultz, who buys a slave named Django (Foxx) in the opening scenes of this movie. The only reason he buys Django - to locate the Brittle Brothers for him, who are three men that use cruel and harsh punishment for the slaves on the plantations they work on. It turns out Schultz is actually a bounty hunter, who locates and kills the men that he's sent bounties for. However, little did he know that this newly freed slave is amazing in the bounty hunting business, which prompts the two men to form a partnership in the bounty hunter business.
This serves practically as the first half of this movie, following the two men as they learn to become friends and partners in the business. Schultz, who is open about his hatred of slavery, is different from every other bounty hunter - he actually has a heart and is compassionate towards others. This is a total 180 from his previous role as Hans Landa in Tarantino's WW2 based film. He wants the best for those he meet, and he doesn't treat these bounties as killing people. He treats them merely as work for himself, and he doesn't let himself get attached to the situation in which the victims are apart of. Consider the scene where he and Django are led to kill a men on bounty, but they do it in front of his young son. Django has some problem with it, but Schultz acts as if it's any other job he has to carry out. Like mentioned, this isn't him not being compassionate, but letting himself get attached to the people he has to kill.
Django, on the other hand, is finally getting that taste of freedom. He has been enslaved since being brought to the U.S., so now he is letting himself experience the pleasures that white men had, such as drinking beer in a saloon and dressing up in fancy clothing. However, that doesn't hold back his lust for vengeance against those that have wronged both him and his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). This is evident in the scene where he kills the Brittle Brothers.
"I like the way you die, boy," Django tells him.
We see a flashback before that showing the same Brittle brother whipping Django years earlier, telling him he likes the way that the slaves bleed when he whips them. It seems very masochistic in a way, showing the pleasure that these sick men get out of brutally torturing these poor men and women of all ages and backgrounds before being brought into enslavement.
As their partnership goes on and they are becoming more and more successful and rich, Schultz promises that he will help Django rescue his wife from the slave owner that now owns her. That slave owner is named Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), who owns the beautifully designed CandieLand. They travel with Candie and his gang back to his home, feigning interesting in buying one of Candie's "Mandingos", which are brutish slaves that are forced to fight to the death.
When they arrive at the giant manor, they find Broomhilda, who is formally introduced in the film by having water thrown over her nude body as she is getting out of the hot box, a punishment for attempting to run away from the plantation. Their plan is going very well at first, with Django and Schultz able to smooth talk their way into buying Broomhilda from Candie, until Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), a hot-tempered old house slave, sees behind their deception and informs Candie of his misconception. This leads to hot tempers boiling over, with Django and Schultz now fighting their way to survive.
It can be argued that Candie is perhaps a much more terrifying, evil, masochistic, and vile villain than Landa is. Everything about this character is just ugly and gross, both inside and out. The hatred he feels for the African Americans is reflected in his ugly, long goatee and his yellow brittle teeth. He is a repulsive character, both inside and out, and I think DiCaprio does a fantastic job at portraying this. In the real world, DiCaprio is a very attractive man, and has been for many years. But, in this movie, he totally sheds that attractive, nice image and portrays such a dirty and grotesque character.
At the same time, Jackson gives a performance that is such a change of form for him. Jackson is known for playing those badass guys in films, and he has been portraying that very well for the past forty years. But now, he is playing this old, decrepit slave that has been brainwashed into believing what the white people are doing against them is good. Whether he believes that or not, I don't know. Maybe it's just an act to save his own skin? Whether or not that's true, Jackson is able to make the viewer believe that he is this old Slave, and not the same type of character people know Jackson to play.
The cinematography and the beautiful action sequences go hand-in-hand. They are shot in a way to make the entire segment so badass, even if it is very dark and disturbing. I love the scene in the house where Django shoots and kills almost everyone after the infamous "handshake" scene. It is so beautifully shot, from the choreographed movements to the graphic blood sprays, it really keeps the tone that this film has been setting up from the beginning. Usually, I'm not a fan of classic rap music being in period pieces, but there is something about James Brown and 2Pac's song, "Unchained", playing over the scene that makes it work so perfectly in the context of this movie.
When a film makes such a dramatic change like this does from the first half to the second half, many people are able to classify which is the better half. However, in this case, I would say both halves work just as perfectly and are able to compliment themselves beautifully. This is from the gradual change by Tarantino, as well as his witty dialogue and the beautiful character development that is present throughout the entire movie. I can't say whether "Inglorious Basterds" or this film is the better of the two, as it changes on a daily basis, but I would say this one is the most enjoyable and fun to watch of the two.
Everything Tarantino is able to do in the movie is so wonderful and beautiful in numerous ways, which delivers a very entertaining story and honoring the lives of the enslaved people in America's history. "Pulp Fiction" might always be Tarantino's masterpiece, but from every film he releases, you can see the growth in his directing and writing abilities over time. From every film he releases, Tarantino just keeps demonstrating how he is a force to be reckon with in the film industry.