Django Unchained (2012) – Movie Review

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=eUdM9vrCbow]

 

Django Unchained is Quentin Tarantino’s latest project, which I was enticed into watching with just one trailer. I had been an early Tarantino fan, but felt that my interest in that particular perspective on film had peaked and would never return.  In other words, I wasn’t expecting much.  Despite a somewhat negative outlook I was happily surprised.  After the movie, I walked out of the theater feeling the elation of a film that has just hit the spot and for a movie nerd like me, that’s pretty awesome.

Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave, in the midst of transport when Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) intercepts and finances his freedom in exchange for his help in identifying the three bounties he’s currently pursuing.  Dr. Schultz and Django subsequently become near instant friends and Schultz creates an apprenticeship opportunity for Django that he cannot refuse.  Together, the two collect bounty after bounty and eventually develop a strategy to buy Django’s wife, Boomhilda’s freedom.

Broomhilda’s plight, it turns out, parallel’s the German fable of Siegfried and Broomhilda which inspires Dr. Schultz to ensure that Django reunites with his wife because, ultimately, love is what it’s all about.  Django, under the tutelage of Schultz, develops into an accurate and efficient bounty hunter.  The Doctor and Django’s journey ultimately crosses with that of  Monsieur Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his number one house slave, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).   It turns out Candie now owns Broomhilda and it’s up to Schultz and Django to devise a plan to safely extract her from one of the more sinister plantations in the pre-civil war south.

As previously mentioned, I wasn’t expecting much when I sat down to watch this film. What I ended up with was a lot to think about, which is a nice change in the age of the ubiquitous remake.  I’m ready to think about touchy material and I’m beyond ready to shit on racism and not let labels offend or belittle me.  Oh yes, I’m going there in a movie review, but I digress…

Not only is Django visually appealing, the acting is top notch, the writing is achingly irreverent and the story is a refreshingly updated portrayal of the shadier side of American history.  I understand that this is Jamie Foxx’s movie, but Christoph Waltz cannot be denied.  Granted it’s not a stretch for him to play a German guy, but anyone who can do it with such humor, complexity and depth is a true talent.    After having seen him in Inglorious Bastards, I expected nothing less.  I am delighted Waltz came through.

I can honestly say I’m unsure why I doubt Jamie Foxx considering I saw Ray and still cry every time I watch it.  Nevertheless, when I first saw his face in the trailer, I thought, for a second, “umm, I dunno…” Well I know now he did a great job keeping such harsh material palatable.  Foxx is clearly a multidimensional actor that can convey badassness and vulnerability while maintaining perfect comedic timing.   He’s good at the drama, most certainly good at the comedy and even the action.  It’s always a disappointment when an actor you enjoy just cannot pull off the badassness required of an action role (e.g. Anne Hathaway as Catwoman).  Foxx has no issues in this department and that was yet another exciting discovery during the film.

It pains me to give Leonardo DiCaprio his own paragraph because for some unknown reason his face annoys the fuck out of me. Regardless, I love him as Calvin Candie. DiCaprio brings to life a character that seems like an unlikely fit.  I was charmed and intrigued every time he was on screen.  It is a real pleasure, watching people be good at their jobs, even if you don’t think you like them.  DiCaprio was great at mixing up a concoction of equal parts charming, scary and crazy ‘ol coot.

Samuel L. Jackson as Candie’s head house slave and Kerry Washington as the beautiful and bilingual Broomhilda round out the cast.  The comedy is strong and satirical.  The action is swift paced, despite the long running-time.  The subject matter cuts down to the bone and it all congeals into this modern-day western, stylized and cool enough to make you flinch.

My respect goes to Tarantino for telling racism to fuck off because we’re going to start desensitizing ourselves to the right things now.  This is ultimately a very talented group of people who felt strongly about a story and a message and did their best to convey what they felt to the viewer.  Well done; this is solid movie entertainment that pushes the envelope right into the fire.

Django Unchained (2012)A

A = Movies this good don’t happen often and If you’re going to watch something you should watch this.  This is exactly what I go looking for when I go to the movies and I trust you’ll enjoy it if you keep an open mind and give it a go.

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