Quentin Tarantino has a handful of movies that he can be proud of, in terms of direction and artful execution, but is Django Unchained his best work thus far? Audiences seem to agree wholeheartedly. Anticipation was running high a few days before Django Unchained’s release, where movie aficionados across the country were doing the countdown in unison. It was like New Year’s all over again.
The movie opens with a scene of slaves trudging through the desert shackled ankle to ankle, in the heat of the unforgiving sun. Right enough, Tarantino selects an opening track that sets the mood that is quintessentially Old Western. As the movie progresses, the tracks bizarrely switch from Country, to Rap. That’s what’s so great about Tarantino; he doesn’t give a shit about what any of us think.
It’s the year 1858 and the slaves are being transported by the Speck Brothers, who they were sold to. Along the way through a forest, the brothers come across the comical Dr. Schultz, played by Oscar winner Christoph Waltz.
Schultz is not just charismatic but friendly and quite tolerant with the two haughty brothers as he inquires about a man he is seeking called Django (Jamie Foxx). He points out that one of the slaves is, in fact, him offering to buy Django from the brothers. What follows catches the audience totally off guard as Dr. Schultz swiftly shoots one brother while injuring the second upon being threatened. Gasps fill the theatre at the bloody spectacle – oh what joy.
When the scene wraps itself up, we’re left wondering about what the hell Tarantino has up his sleeve next. Waltz plays the role of a bounty hunter looking for the Brittle Brothers, proposing to Django to help him identify them, as he mercilessly kills the trio and claims a reward that he is most willing to share. Django on the other hand has something else in mind – saving his lady love, Broomhilda, played by the black beauty Kerry Washington. When Dr. Schultz agrees to help him (after the two team up as one), it startles you at first that he’d be so kind to bother. But he’s not White, he’s German – it makes sense.
As the movie picks up pace, Tarantino doesn’t suppress his lust to douse audiences in a bloodbath of quick-draws. While the scenes are ruthless and alarmingly graphic, fans of the famous director lapped up the violence. I was thrilled how Tarantino managed to make it so impactful, despite the lack of anything but guns.
The final leg of the movie takes on an intriguing turn, when they finally go to rescue Broomhilda from Mississippi’s rich plantation owner, Calvin Candie, played by the blue-eyed bad boy, Leonardo DiCaprio. Even with his tar-stained teeth and slightly chunky appearance, he managed to make hearts beat faster.
Candie owns Broomhilda, where Dr. Schultz and Django pretend to be interested in Mandingo fighting, to gain access to her. Candie owns a bunch of slaves that beat each other up as a sport (last one standing, wins), where the crème of the lot is not for sale. With the pretence of wanting to buy a prized slave from Candie (at a ‘ridiculous’ price), the duo set out to discreetly suggest buying Broomhilda too, once the deal is closed.
What screws up their brilliant plan is Stephen aka Samuel L. Jackson. Stephen is Candie’s kiss-ass, insidious senior house slave, who butchers the plan when he suspects that Django and Broomhilda are more than strangers. What follows next will thrill you, shock you, and make you squeal in delight – if violence is what you love, that is.
Guns blazing, Django doesn’t go down quietly without a fight. While he does get captured finally, he manages to free himself and shows the folks at ‘Candie Land’ just how badass he can be. Tarantino couldn’t have picked a better cast to grace the silver screen, although Jamie Foxx lacks emotion, gumption, and passion. His lacklustre performance doesn’t move us like that of Waltz’s, which ultimately won him an Oscar. While Tarantino’s initial choice, Will Smith, may have spiced things up a bit, his ego swallowed him whole when he discovered that the part of Django wasn’t the lead; turning the part down like a fool.
Tarantino has done it again – he didn’t just give us a taste of the beginnings of racism back in the day, but a generous dose of the good old-fashioned antebellum era. He doesn’t care to ingratiate; you can either love him, or hate him. Those who support Tarantino’s love for the eccentric, untamed, dirty, and macabre tales will appreciate what he’s done to his latest offering.