Sunday, January 27, 2013

Django Unchained: An Explosive Film

Last night I stepped out of my vintage world and ventured to the theater to see "Django Unchained." Early trailers for the movie did little to motivate me to see what appeared to be a violent Quentin Tarantino western, but once I found out that Dennis Christopher, one of my favorite actors ("Breaking Away") had a part in it, I decided to give it a try.

I wasn't disappointed.

As with most Tarantino movies, this one is full of graphic violence and uncomfortable moments. The violence (showing bodies literally exploding when shot) I could have done without; the uncomfortable moments make it a more interesting film that begs to be discussed once you exit the theater. That's my kind of movie.

In a nutshell, Django (Jamie Foxx) is a shackled slave whose fortunes change when a bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) needs his assistance in identifying three of the men he must kill/capture. As a forward thinking German immigrant, Schultz is against slavery and treats Django as a business partner, granting him his freedom as well as a new wardrobe (one of the many brilliant comic moments in the movie). Django wants to be reunited with his wife, who was sold off to a different plantation in Mississippi, and Schultz agrees to help him. The plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), is a man with few morals and a twisted sense of fun (watching Mandingo slave fights). Schultz realizes that merely proposing the purchase of Django's wife will not accomplish the goal, and the two decide to pose as buyers of Mandingo Fighters and approach Candie that way.

And that's as much as you need to know. Watch the movie to see how it all unfolds.

Jamie Foxx is amazing as Django, but Waltz steals the show with his even-tempered yet fast acting characterization of the brilliant Dr. Schultz. Waltz is able to take a typically unlikeable character of a bounty hunter and make him someone that the audience positively identifies with and supports. The two of them are one of the best on-screen duos to come along in Western film history.

The rest of the cast is top notch as well. Dennis did a great job as Candie's somewhat slimy attorney. Don Johnson had a fun supporting role as a plantation owner with little regard for his slaves. He is also part of a slightly uncomfortable Ku Klux Klan scene, but if you view the overall message (and the ending) of the movie in the larger sense, you will see that this film neither condones slavery nor is looking for a race war, as some who have reviewed the film have claimed.

Where viewers might find themselves getting fueled up over the controversial elements is that this is a period film, but much of the acting, music, and language used is extremely contemporary. This makes it easy to forget that the plot should be examined in the context of the era in which it takes place: pre-Civil War America.

Samuel Jackson is almost unrecognizable as Candie's trusted house slave, Stephen, who does little to help his fellow slaves.

Franco Nero, who starred in "Camelot" and the original "Django," has an amusing cameo in the movie.

Squeamish viewers might have to turn their heads a few times, but it is well worth it. Check out this Oscar nominated flick (Picture, Supporting Actor-Waltz, Screenplay, Sound Editing, Cinematography) while it is still in the theaters.

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K. Martinez said...

Nicely written review. I've been wanting to see both Django and Argo, but will probably wait until they come out on DVD.

fuzzhead said...

Loved the movie, I've seen it twice already.

Almost 3 hours long & I wanted more.