Finally crafting the Western we know has been coming since 1992 Quentin Tarantino is as unchained as his titular character, unleashing a 3-hour behemoth with more racism, more violence, and more Spaghetti music than we could ever have imagined.
Django first appeared on our screens in 1966 as a white drifter with piercing blue eyes and a machine gun. Since then the character has become an eponymous figure in the Western film, unofficially featuring in thirty-one ‘sequels’. Now Jamie Foxx takes the form of a different Django but with eyes just as piercing, pistol-slinging skills just as unrivalled and a heart just as vengeful.
Unchained sees slave Django become a free man by the hand of slavery-hating German immigrant dentist-turned-bounty hunter, Dr King Schultz, played with insane suavity by the charismatic Christoph Waltz. After Schultz Pretty Woman‘s Django into an excellent bounty hunter the pair’s unlikely and extremely frowned upon partnership develops from associate to kinship so much so that when Django sets out to retrieve his wife from the cordial but brutal plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) Schultz agrees to help him on his potentially suicidal mission.
After closing Inglourious Basterds with the tongue in cheek “This might just be my masterpiece,” Tarantino was clearly very happy with where the film had taken him as an artist. He had once again adopted and owned a new aesthetic style, seizing every bit of WWII iconography and paraphernalia possible and piecing together a genre film of unparalleled quality.
Somehow outdoing himself once more Django Unchained is a Western film Best Of, borrowing iconic visuals, musical tones and characters left and right, once more blurring the line between homage and rip-off, but with Tarantino’s staple wit providing the gold that separates his film from all others when sifting the proverbial gold pan of the genre.
Of course, aesthetic glories and a genius script are nothing without an equally impressive cast. Luckily, another staple of a Tarantino film is impeccable casting. In a film with such bold themes only bold actors could thrive. Foxx and Waltz’s chemistry is compelling, funny and genuine as the pair riff through racism and work with graceful charisma. Perhaps most impressive is DiCaprio’s turn as the villainous Candie, whose immersion into the despicable character is a feat that cannot have been easy. Kerry Washington is sadly underused as Django’s wife, Broomhilda but in her short screen time she captivates the audience as much as Samuel L Jackson makes us simultaneously squirm and laugh.
Django Unchained is as funny as it is blunt; as violent as it is beautiful; as statement-making as it is simply a love letter from Tarantino to the genre. Some have challenged Django Unchained as much as some have praised it, and I can’t tell you what to make of it on some fronts but I can tell you that I sincerely hope it picks up that golden statuette next month.
Anti-white bigotry. Exploitative black racism. Masterpiece. There is something for everyone in Django Unchained.