Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Quentin Tarantino has always been one of cinema's most unique and memorable personalities. A video clerk who obsessed over movies, he eventually made good, churning out iconic and genre bending fare like ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Kill Bill’ and ‘Inglorious Basterds’.
Unfortunately for Tarantino, the genesis of his latest film would be a long and hard one. Various actors would drop in and out of his film, making for a rather lengthy list of who's who in Hollywood. The list: rapper RZA, Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Jonah Hill (later cast in the film in a different cameo role), Sacha Baron Cohen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In addition, this is Tarantino's first film not to be edited by long-time collaborator Sally Menke, who passed away tragically in 2010.
Nevertheless, Tarantino can always be counted on to stir up the pot a little bit. Just like his previous movie ‘Inglorious Basterds’, ‘Django Unchained’ also involves a far bit of history rewriting and this time, the controversy is amped up. The story revolves around Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who has been sold away from his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). He encounters Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German dentist who happens to be a bounty hunter. He frees Django, who becomes his bounty hunting partner. In return, the good doctor promises Django that he will assist him in tracking down and rescuing his wife during spring.
There are a few things to expect when watching a Quentin Tarantino picture: some incredibly witty dialogue, a huge serving of blood and gun violence and of course, many homages to films you've probably never heard of in your life. The film is set in the Deep South and the Old West, in the antebellum era, two years before the start of the American Civil War. Warning: if you're heavily offended by the frequent use of the N-word, don't even entertain the thought of watching.
For the rest, you're in for a completely fictional and buck wild treat. One of Tarantino's most distinctive traits is his knack for creating memorable characters, no matter how big or small the role. While Christoph Waltz might have just gone 2 for 2 with back to back Academy Award wins for his parts as hyper linguistic characters in Tarantino movies, the other supporting actors can feel aggrieved for being snubbed for nominations. Leonardo DiCaprio in particular seems to take delight in playing against type.
As Calvin Candie, the owner of the Candyland plantation, Leo switches gears swiftly between disarming charm and a sadistic brutality never seen from him before. Playing the mastermind behind Candie is Samuel L. Jackson's Stephen, the senior house slave who raised Calvin. Fiercely loyal, Stephen thinks there's more than meets the eye when Django and Schultz show up and alerts Calvin to it. Sam L. Jackson, another long-time collaborator is joined here by Waltz as two extremely prolific proponents and speakers of Tarantinian – the language of Tarantino, if you will.
Watching the both of them bring out the loose, no holds barred freedom in Tarantino's writing onto screen is a sight to behold. Tarantino skilfully directs these actors into a duel of wits as Django and Schultz attempt to con Calvin, the owner of Broomhilda, into a series of transactions that'll eventually reunite Django back with her. Of course, complications occur and since this is a Tarantino joint, these complications are terribly messy.
Even with heavy subjects like Nazis and in this case, slavery, Tarantino never really seems to put the topic on a pedestal. And it's exactly that never say never type attitude that makes him so interesting because nothing is out of bounds for him. This time, his musings on the blood stained past of America seems to be one of remembrance, of never forgetting the injustices committed.
Nevertheless, the results are always controversial, and even for a movie with such a serious subject, some scenes may have been even funnier than certain movies touted to be “comedies”. ‘Django Unchained’ proves once again that Quentin Tarantino is a force to be reckoned with, an artist whose extensive level of detail can be felt on multiple levels from shot composition to the spaghetti western music and the chemistry of the actors. You just can't help but feel that the actors working with him are having a blast working with the man and as an audience member, you'll certainly enjoy it too. Don't ever stop making movies, Tarantino.