“Django Unchained” could quite possibly be Quentin Tarantino’s best film since “Pulp Fiction.” It’s definitely his most accessible to a wider audience, but even then, the Tarantino way is ever so present throughout the film and fans of his work will not be disappointed. “Django” is every bit as “Tarantino” as his other films, but it also possesses a certain appeal that is hard to touch upon. Maybe it’s the setting of an “Old South” where a black man riding into action on a horse like a cowboy of the Old West feels somewhat new and exciting; maybe it’s the witty chemistry between Jamie Foxx as Django and Christoph Waltz as the dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz; or maybe it’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s brilliantly devious villain, Calvin Candie. Whatever it is, this film screams Quentin Tarantino with ever persistent fun and excitement. And lots of blood.
Tarantino fans undoubtedly notice a certain style that the director infuses into all of his films, and yet there is also two methods to this man’s genius. The director often gets lost in his own dialogue and characters will often pronounce long monologues within his films. These boasts of creativity, however, often have something to say and are no doubt awesome to listen to. For example, the beginning of “Inglorious Basterds” features a perfectly uttered speech from Waltz, and in that movie, there’s a lot of talking. And so, this is one aspect of Tarantino’s style, one side of his method of madness: lots of talking, but brilliant dialogue. The other side to his method is pure adrenaline pumping, bloody violence and quick one-liners, seemingly the opposite of what I just explained. For instance, Kill Bill Volume One is the second method. Volume Two is the first. You can’t really go wrong with either, because Tarantino is a master at both.
“Django Unchained” embodies the second method. At nearly 3 hours, it felt like it flew by. I was never bored. You won’t find many long stretches of dialogue in this movie, at least not at the capacity of some of his other films. It moves at a quick pace, never really slowing down. That’s not to say the writing isn’t brilliant. Tarantino’s dialogue is always a breath of fresh air. But this film is very action oriented; a lot happens, and it’s hard not to enjoy every minute of it. Tarantino never really holds back from outrageous use of blood and violence, and he certainly doesn’t let up any for this film. But it works, because it’s Quentin Tarantino. One can argue that there’s an excessive amount of violence in this movie, but at the end of the day, it’s Quentin Tarantino, and it doesn’t matter. Besides, the countless shoot outs remind me of the good ol’ westerns of the ol’ days…if those included black bounty hunters shooting white men in the crotch.
Really, I think that’s what Tarantino wanted to embrace in this film. He’s an avid fan of “spaghetti westerns” and the film is an over-the-top Western set in the South two years before the Civil War…so a “Southern.” But while it may be over-the-top and sometimes random (as only Tarantino can perfect – take the KKK-esque raid featuring Jonah Hill as an example to see just how out-of-nowhere the film can be, and it works in hilarious fashion), at the heart of the story is a man going to great lengths to rescue the love of his life from slavery. You’ll root for Django and that’s what’s at the heart of any good Western: a hero you can root for who’ll ride in on his horse and save the day.
The actors bring to life Tarantino’s chaotic vision perfectly. Foxx, as stated, is a hero you can root for. You want him to win and in the midst of so much hysteria he remains the most serious throughout the film (he doesn’t lack his fair share of great lines, though). Waltz is again brilliant in a very different role than of what we saw him as in “Basterds.” Leonardo DiCaprio is perfect as the main villain of the story, perhaps worthy of a best supporting actor nod. And Sam Jackson is basically playing an elderly version of himself, which is fine with me.
“Django Unchained” is that special kind of film that gets you in the Christmas spirit…okay, maybe not. But it is the kind of film that I walked out of the theater saying “I want to see that again right now.” Forget any controversy surrounding it: enjoy the film for what it is, because Quentin Tarantino doesn’t make films he doesn’t want you to enjoy. He wants you to be entertained. So enjoy it, damn it.