Phew! This is one vengeance film with a.t.t.i.t.u.d.e but I wouldn’t expect anything less from the one and only Quentin Tarantino. Django Unchained (2012) is his playground and he certainly brought out the big guns!
Django (Jamie Foxx) is a complicated sort of character who you sort of warm to and sort of don’t. On the one hand we have the rising up of a slave against his oppressors with the ‘help’ of German bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), and on the other we have a ruthless killer who appears to have no loyalty to his fellow slaves other than to his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).
In typical Tarantino style, Django fills the screen with his flamboyant dress, gunslinging skills and increasingly witty repertoire. The fight scenes are full on, gory, and punishing, but as you would expect, Tarantino still manages to inject comic book humour which encourages you to laugh in parts as bullets go ripping through bodies.
Alongside the talented Mr Foxx are the equally talented Leonardo DiCaprio as ruthless plantation owner Calvin Candie and Samuel L. Jackson who is almost unrecognisable as Candie’s loyal house-slave and confidant Stephen. Chuck these three together along with a fine performance from Waltz and you have a film packed full of energy, suspense, and intrigue.
Django Unchained has plenty of bite and wit. You don’t have to be a fan of the western to enjoy this film again and again **** (4 out of 5 stars)
In one particularly nervous scene, crafty Stephen alerts Candie to the fact that Django and Schultz have abused Candie’s hospitality and are, in fact, planning to take his slave Broomhilda with them. What follows is an uncomfortable and drawn out scene in which Candie smashes the skull of former plantation slave Ben. In doing so he serves to demonstrate what he believes, which is that slaves such as Broomhilda are predisposed to subservience. I read that in this scene DiCaprio really did accidentally cut his hand and they kept filming – what a treat that must have been for Tarantino to have real blood in his film!
I would say my favourite performance in this film came from Jackson. His character Stephen was slippery, scary, and mean, but at the same time you admired him for ‘saving his neck’ by becoming head of the household under Candie’s trust. But following the skull smashing scene of old slave Ben, you do wonder whether Stephen may have become the first slave in the history of that plantation to prove Candie wrong and revolt against his master? He certainly had it in him…
Oh, and the soundtrack and scenery are in equal measure – fantastic!