Django Unchained (2012)

As we all know, brandishing a hammer threateningly is how one studies phrenology.

As we all know, brandishing a hammer threateningly is how one studies phrenology.

Django Unchained is the newest, and highly anticipated, movie from auteur Quentin Tarantino. It follows bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and his newly acquired (and freed) slave Django (Jamie Foxx) as they set about rescuing Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Needless to say, since this is a Tarantino film, Django Unchained is long, violent, and very sharply written. The movie is nearly three hours long, yet it never felt like it outstayed its welcome. Much like how he did with Kill Bill, Tarantino used Django Unchained to pay homage to other film genres. It transgressed from buddy cop story to hero-saves-princess story to the typical Tarantino revenge story, all within the framework of a western.

The movie featured terrific performances all around, and it was mainly Tarantino’s script that helped everyone. Tarantino’s movies always feature very cleverly-written dialogue, and Django Unchained is no exception. It was Leonardo DiCaprio that really stole the show for me as Calvin Candie. His performance suddenly transformed from amusing to absolutely terrifying when he is informed something is amiss  about the business dealing between himself and Schultz and Django. Does anyone remember the scene featuring “Stuck in the Middle with You” from Reservoir Dogs?

Ironically though, Calvin Candie is revealed to not even be the main antagonist of the movie, nor is Dr. Schultz the hero. Tarantino cleverly subverts how the issue of American slavery is handled in movies. Django, while pretending to be a slaver, allows Candie to unleash dogs onto a slave who attempted to escape, which greatly disturbs Schultz, who steadfastly remains the movie’s moral compass. Django knows what he did was the only way he could get himself closer to Broomhilda. In the meantime, we find out that Broomhilda is much more afraid of Steven (Samuel L. Jackson), another slave, than she is of Candie himself.

Django Unchained ultimately proved to contain everything we know and love about Quentin Tarantino (including an Ennio Morricone score and a badly-acted but brief cameo by QT himself). Had I seen this movie a week ago, it would have topped Skyfall as the best movie of 2012 I have seen and was much better than Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (2009). Django Unchained is actually the first movie of 2012 (despite this being the first review of 2013) that I awarded a full 4 out of 4.

Score: 4/4