2 hrs 45 min
Staff Writer: Nathaniel Brayton
Tarantino films are a brand. His brand is witty (relying on a dialogue heavy screenplay), and bloody – teeth clenching, face covering – bloody. Django Unchained builds upon this brand, and with Tarantino, I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Django (Foxx) is being transported as a slave when undercover bounty hunter Schultz (Waltz), offers him his freedom in exchange for identifying his latest bounty. Instead of going their separate ways, Schultz and Django team up. Django takes to killing easily after being taught by the overly-dramatic and enthusiastic bounty hunter. When Django learns that his wife has been sold to the notorios Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), he must infiltrate the Candyland Plantation, posing as a black slave owner – the lowest of low.
Tarantino excels at character exposition and it seems that he has latched onto Christoph Waltz, who previously won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Inglorious Bastards as The Jew Hunter. In Django Unchained, Tarantino carefully crafts a flamboyant caricature for Waltz, and he owns it. And although I am drawn to the enlightened bounty hunter, the most intriguing and complex character was Monsieur Candie, who puts on many different masks. To me, Candie was always the dumbest person in the room but to make up for that he tried to be cruel and confident, even having two slaves fight to death in the living room for evening entertainment.
Candie’s character allowed for the greatest irony of the movie, where he became a puppet to his house slave Stephen (Jackson). Candie, not observant or quick at all, relies on Stephen to catch his missteps. Stephen takes this opportunity to disassociate himself from the other slaves of Candyland. Like Django, Stephen belittles and talks down to the other slaves, though unlike Django, Stephen is not putting on an act.
Django Unchained is part extremely stylized, playing rap music over bloody shootouts, and part western spoof, the best parts being the latter. One scene in particular, and the best in my opinion, pays serious homage to Blazzing Saddles. This scene showed me that there can still be creativity in comedy in this age of raunchy drivel. If you don’t mind mild spoilers, you can watch the scene here. *Warning: Strong Langauge*
Even with all of these positives, Django Unchained is not perfect. It suffers mostly from being too long. And as mentioned before, because of this length it tries to juggle two different personalities, never establishing a true identity.
“I thank… we all thank the bag was a nice idea. But I’m not pointin’ any fangers. Think it coulda been done better. So, how ’bout, no bags this time? But next time, we do the bags right, and then we go full regalia.”