24 Frames Reviews: Django Unchained

Jan 7, 2013

I could tell you that Quentin Tarantino is a provocateur, but you already know that. I could tell you that he uses the "n" word too liberally and with a little too much zest, you know that too. I could tell you his latest film "Django Unchained" is causing controversy for those reasons, once again, you probably know this.  I could go through all the reasons some of the choices he makes are wrong, or morally, socially, and historically reprehensible but then I'd be telling you something you already believe, or that you don't believe at all. Maybe you're like me and you do feel uneasy about some of the history bending, and the gloss over large subjects like the holocaust and slavery, but you love his movies any way. Regardless what you feel I could make this another tired review about how he is bad, or how he is great and none of us will be better off or wiser.

Instead  of all that let me offer this, "Django Unchained" is guaranteed to entertain you, it's funny, irreverent, suspenseful, and of course, well written. Tarantino has found a nice stride following up "Inglorious Basterds" with this film, both are farce of the highest caliber but aesthetically pleasing, and just downright fun to watch. "Django" begins with the bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz(Christopher Waltz) looking for a slave that may have information to the whereabouts of 3 brothers who are on his bounty list. This slave is of course Django played by Jamie Foxx with amazing depth for a Tarantino picture. They find the 3 brothers, bring them to justice and that's when the story really starts. Django and his wife were separated in Alabama and Schultz promises Django that if he stays on with him throughout the winter, that in the Summer they will go down to Alabama, find his wife, and Schultz will free them both. Part western(southern actually), part revenge film, part road flick,  Tarantino has never met a genre trope or convention that he didn't like, but to his credit he is a master juggler of them all.  Every film is built on the same base, conflict that has to be resolved, the fact that Tarantino can then build a 2 story jungle gym that even grown ups like is a complete credit to his talents. 

As the film unfolds the farce rises to a mountain peak when Schultz and Django track "Hildy", Django's wife played by Kerry Washington, to Candy-Land a giant plantation owned by Calvin Candie(Leonardo DiCaprio) who is a terrible, horrible human being. What makes Django, and Tarantino, so great are the little things. The fact that Hildy knows German and how that pays off later, how Calvin Candie has a fascination with French aristocracy and culture and how that comes into a play in a crucial scene near the end of the film. How Tarantino does so much with dialogue, simple gestures, and music. The man is a master of music expression in film, he's a master at film language in general. "Django" is no exception to his mastery of the craft and actually propels him forward in it, I loved this movie and if you love little things that add up to something great, you will dig this film too. I give it 4/5 shotgun shells. 

PS. What Samuel Jackson does in this film is phenomenal and  I didn't say enough about the acting, Foxx, Jackson and DiCaprio all deserve nominations for their performances, stellar work.