Django Unchained (2012)
The seventh film by Quentin Tarantino is a downright enjoyable, unabashedly entertaining & immensely satisfying action extravaganza that finds the reputed filmmaker homaging the classic spaghetti westerns in his own stylized fashion while also toying with America’s horrible past with slavery in an amusing but counterattacking manner to deliver a pulp masterpiece that’s brutal, bloody & hilarious as hell from start to finish and is destined to please not only Tarantino’s aficionados but majority of the filmgoing audience.
Set a couple of years before the outbreak of the American Civil War, the story of Django Unchained follows a German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz who buys a slave named Django & promises to give him his freedom in exchange for his assistance in tracking down a trio of outlaws. But after learning of Django’s past & his long-lost wife Broomhilda, Schultz offers another deal to him, makes him his partner in the bounty hunting business, and subsequently heads to the plantation with a ridiculous plan to free Django’s wife from her cruel owner Calvin Candie.
Written & directed by Quentin Tarantino, each frame of Django Unchained brims with his patented ingredients and is an ideal blend of all his trademarks. Passionately written & enthusiastically directed, the story packs in a remarkable set of characters, all of whom are brilliantly illustrated on the film canvas by its talented cast, and also celebrates his infamous lust for exaggerated blood-filled violence & spectacular wordplay, all illustrated on screen in bold, brazen & blatant style. There are several homages & parodies to be found here, but that KKK mockery is a standout in itself.
Production design team does a marvellous job with its time-specific set pieces to recreate the 1850s ambience, the wisely chosen shooting locations bring credibility of its own while costume design department takes its inspirations from earlier examples of its genre with few fancy elements later added to it. Cinematography makes excellent use of the warm colour palette and employs several techniques such as long takes, clever angles, fluid camera movements, low-light photography & apt lighting to give those sequences a versatile look & feel while retaining the sharpness & clarity of those images.
Its 165 minutes of narrative may seem daunting at first but its runtime is never felt for the most part. The film begins with a terrific sequence that introduces the two key characters and from there on, it moves forward with a rock-n-roll vibe that keeps getting better. The dialogues carry a playful tone, the humour is pure Tarantino and the stylized gun violence is delightfully engaging. The soundtrack makes heavy use of existing spaghetti western tracks (notably the ones from Ennio Morricone & Luis Bacalov) in addition to a few original compositions, all of which sync seamlessly with the accompanying scenes, as is the case in every Tarantino flick.
Coming to the acting department, Django Unchained features an outstanding cast in Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington & Samuel L. Jackson, and all of them are just fabulous in their given roles. Foxx plays Django and his performance only gets better as the plot progresses. Waltz effortlessly steals the show with a compelling & charismatic rendition of Dr. King Schultz. DiCaprio plays the antagonist for a change and he’s absolutely thrilling & devilishly charming in the role of the sadistic Calvin Candie. Washington does well with what she’s given and then there’s Jackson who never fails to leave his own mark and here, he’s just as great as the rest.
On an overall scale, Django Unchained is an absolute riot from beginning to end that showcases the best of Quentin Tarantino in the most direct manner as possible. Excessively stylish yet extremely sophisticated in all departments of filmmaking, this spaghetti western (or “southern” as Tarantino calls it) exhibits an incredible sense of fun throughout its runtime despite its provocative subject matter and delivers a roller-coaster ride without swaying away from its genre’s staples. Possibly the best film of its year & definitely one of Tarantino’s finest, Django Unchained is an instant classic that keeps making ingenious use of all its resources to bring on screen a spectacle that’s perfectly balanced in all aspects & winning on all levels. Delightfully recommended.