While I should really try to avoid ranking this movie against the
rest of Tarantino's filmography, I should at least compare it to its most
obvious comparison: 2009's _Inglorious Basterds_ . Both movies showed us
that the oppressed people could fight back; but while _Basterds_ reminded
us to Never Forget, _Django Unchained_ showed us pieces of history that we,
as a culture, have *already* forgotten.
_Django Unchained_ is a movie about slavery. Yes, it is billed as a
revenge flick, and there certainly is a lot of revenge in the movie; but
this revenge is against slavers and their minions. The elements of the
revenge flick form a frame around which we can witness and be reviled by
the racism, violence, and degradation inherent in the 1850s US South. And
what comes out is brutal, disturbing, and still entertaining.
As this is a Quentin Tarantino film, many elements of the film are
clearly set before entering the theatre. The direction will be stylized and
top-notch; the dialogue will generally heavy and speech-y, interspersed
with light and funny scenes and it will all be good; the quality of the
actors will be excellent across the board, save perhaps for Tarantino's
cameo role; and the violence will be integral to the film and over-the-top.
All of these things are true, and I will not dwell on them.
What is worth dwelling on is the actors themselves. Jamie Foxx
delivers an excellent and understated performance as the titular Django, a
freed slave that works as bounty hunter to free his wife. Christoph Waltz
is a German dentist/bounty hunter that frees Django, in a curious
juxtaposition to his role in Tarantino's previous movie, _Inglorious
Basterds_. Most impressively, Samuel L Jackson plays the aged head slave of
the Candyland plantation; to his peers he is in charge, and to his masters
he is quite simply a dog. The mix is fascinating. And these are only the
Many of the set pieces are top notch, and spoiling them would do a
disservice to those reading the review. The segment with the proto-KKK
sticks out in my mind as very Blazing-Saddles-y; the dinner-time
conversations were appropriately tense; Tarantino's character made me
giggle; and the opening scene did an excellent job of showing us what the
movie was going to be about. This is a movie that will survive multiple
viewings, if just to see a few of these scenes over and over again.
One point worthy of note was the soundtrack, which is a mix of 60s-
and 70s-style spaghetti western music with the occasional piece of gangsta
rap where appropriate. Even when played over-loud it added to the film; but
I still doubt I'm going to buy a copy of it any time soon.
At any rate, this was a top-notch, challenging, and stressful film.
It is both a stark reminder of the history of racism in our country, and an
excellent use of cathartic revenge. If you have the stomach for the blood
and violence, you should see it.
Rating: 9 (out of 10)
- Tim Skirvin (tskir...@killfile.org)
http://wiki.killfile.org/ Skirv's Homepage <FISH>< <*>
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