Review: Django Unchained

DJANGO6_529At a recent Museum of Modern Art benefit honoring Quentin Tarantino, Peter Bogdonavich (“Last Picture Show,” “Paper Moon”)  introduced him as “the single most influential director of his generation,” and with his latest revenge fantasy  ‘Django Unchained,’ the follow-up to his  2009 epic ‘Inglorious Basterds,’ he’s more than earned that stamp of approval.

Inspired by Sergio Corbucci‘s 1966 spaghetti western, ‘Django Unchained’ follows a slave turned bounty hunter (Jamie Foxx) and his mentor (Christoph Waltz) on a quest to find his enslaved wife (Kerry Washington) and free her from the smarmy Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), owner of the aptly named Candyland Plantation.
From the meticulously crafted first scene of ‘Django’ the audience is treated to a  meet-cute of some sorts between Django (Foxx) and Dr.Schutlz (Waltz), a very distinct contrast from his Academy Award winning portrayal of Colonel Hans Landa in ‘Basterds.’  However, while his introduction is still as ominous as ever and sets the tone for first half of the film, the final build-up doesn’t quite leave the same impact.

To be fair the violence is more than accounted for, the visual content achieves new levels of brilliance  (a beautifully shot bar scene will have you headed to your nearest pub for a brew), and the carefully selected hip-hop soundtrack will leave you bobbing in your seat, but an interesting turn of events preceding the third act causes the film to narrowly lose its way.  Thankfully top-notch performances from Foxx, Waltz and more specifically, DiCaprio, more than make up for what the outcome of the narrative lacks.

In ‘Django’ DiCaprio gives his most memorable performance to date and finally achieves what many thought he was incapable of doing – humor.  His rattling portrayal of Calvin Candie is the kind that leaves you wanting to bathe the stink off of you because you hate that you loved it so much. While he properly plays the role of this villainous human being, one can’t help but fall in love with his effortless southern drawl, his dashing wardrobe and the all around charisma his talent brings to the role.

While ‘Django’ will undoubtedly impel dialogue on the obvious – historical accuracy of the content, Tarantino’s gratuitous use of the “n-word” (the usual use of the word in Tarantino films multiplied by 10) and the director’s recent comments on the 1977 television mini-series “Roots,’ cinematically it ranks as a career best for the director.  Racial politics aside, the audience should take the film for what it is, historical fiction that’s meant to first and foremost entertain.

My Grade: 8.5/10

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One Response to “Review: Django Unchained”

  1. got that right–it’s meant to entertain, not to explain actual events (but of course, re-imagines a supremely interesting story about real situations). glad you enjoyed it! I always love Tarantino for the most part, but i do think he’s entering a new dimension of his career–maturing a bit as a director. I ALWAYS love dicaprio! But this is the most daring role I’ve ever seen from him, indeed. Also, Sam Jackson blew me away. one of the best performances i’ve seen from him in a long while

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