Tarantino's Django Unchained gets it right
Simply put, Django Unchained was the most fun I've had at the movies this year. Quentin Tarantino's slavery epic apologizes to no one and is raw in an unabashed sense that I, as a viewer, appreciated.
Of course, Django isn't without controversy. The film has been met with disdain for its gratuitous use of the N-word and hyper-violence in the midst of tragic shootings that question gun portrayal in modern media. Yet audiences and critics are, for the most part, willing to overlook those things.
The film has made $125 million worldwide as of this past weekend, and at the Golden Globes Django Unchained nabbed trophies for best screenplay and best supporting actor. This is Christoph Waltz's second win in this category, having also won for his portrayal of Hans Landa in 2009's Inglourious Basterds, which is considered by many to be one of the most important roles in recent history.
Though the story might be focused on Jamie Foxx's title character, Waltz steals the show as Dr. King Schultz, a German bounty hunter. It is he who moves the narrative forward, needing Django's help to procure a group of men that have made his bounty list. As King mentors Django, the newly-freed man proves worthy of the profession, and eventually makes his way to his wife's plantation to set her free. Leonardo DiCaprio was spot on as the twisted plantation owner Calvin Candie, and Samuel L. Jackson was nothing short of spectacular as Stephen, the white-loving African American servant. Don Johnson and Jonah Hill also have a great scene together as members of a pre-KKK raiding party that can't decide on whether to wear their hoods during the raid. If that sounds absurd, don't worry - you're right, and you'll love it.
But it is Tarantino's directing that is the real winner here, as he lays out the 19th century South in a surprisingly accurate, if not over-the-top manner (which is Tarantino's bread and butter if you're familiar with his other films). Really, Django Unchained is a spaghetti western set mainly in Mississippi, something that was stylistically engaging and entertaining, in addition to being quite daring.
Not only were the visuals bold, bloody, and fun, but the soundtrack was a breath of fresh air, paired with its subject matter. The use of hip hop in a slavery/western context was risky, but as Tupac accompanied a slow-motion shootout towards the end of the film, I couldn't help but smile, knowing that it paid off.
Unfortunately, the end of the film was also its weakest segment. Django would have been a much stronger and more concise film had it just ended thirty minutes earlier. Without ruining anything for those who have yet to see it, the ending is a whirlwind of violence that could have just as well been left out of the film. But hey - it's Tarantino. He does what he wants. Had the ending been trimmed down, I would have easily given this film a perfect score. But Tarantino's most ambitious and successful film to date was still a visceral and entertaining thrill ride, and one of the best of the year.
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