I’ve never had a clear position on Tarantino’s works. I enjoyed Pulp Fiction (1994), Reservoir Dogs (1992) and loved Kill Bill (2003-2004), but I had mixed feeling about Inglorious Basterds (2009). I was thus very happy to find that Django Unchained (2012) was good, really good, although not as good as Kill Bill.
Django… is set in the Deep South of 19th century America – German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz, played by the unmissable Christoph Waltz, is travelling around Texas looking for men who are wanted, dead or alive, with a high price for their heads up for grabs. He’s a businessman, a sneaky, smart and eloquent creature and, at the beginning of the movie, he’s looking the slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) – the only man who can recognize three brothers, slave guards, for whom the bounty hunter can get a good price. Django, who is bought and given freedom by Schultz (freedom from slavery and freedom to choose his own wardrobe, unfortunately, which gets a bit ridiculous) agrees to team up with the bounty hunter. Over winter, they catch or kill many wanted criminals – they get along so well and are so effective that Schultz offers Django his help in saving Django’s wife from the hands of the extremely rich and extremely cruel land owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
And thus, the ‘intellectual’ part of the movie begins. On the one hand, filled with images of cruelty concerning slavery and on the other, showing the intellectual games that begin to be played between Candie and Schultz, occasionally mixed with images of a racist black servant (Samuel L. Jackson). This is harder to watch and a bit too long (not because of the topic, but because Tarantino tends to over-talk and overplay some parts of the movie). DiCaprio is brilliant in the role of a heartless racist businessman, so is Christoph Waltz, whom I could listen to, deliberating on various topics, for hours and hours.
He is the good man of the movie, and it is via his character that he and Tarantino get their message across. I read that Spike Lee criticized the film before even watching it, assuming that it would offensive and disrespectful and, indeed, there is a lot of offence and disrespect, brutality and swearing, just as there was in reality. Perhaps Spike Lee might see the film’s point, if he actually watched Django…? Nevertheless, this is a movie with a message, as Tarantino tends to make nowadays. Some will like it, some will like it less. It is not my favourite film of his career, but it’s well done and definitely puts ideas in the viewer’s head. And then, having talked, argued, and discussed slavery, Tarantino, DiCaprio and Waltz finally give Foxx a chance for some proper, bloody, traditional Tarantino shooting in the third part of the movie, and everything comes full circle.
165 mins. In English, German, French.