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Django Unchained

February 7, 2013
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Another controversial film by Quentin Tarantino. I assume Quentin Tarantino think controversy is some kind of advertising ploy. He’s not entirely wrong.

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Django Unchained is the latest offering from Quentin Tarantino. It tells the story about his love affair with the 1970s. More directly, it tells the story of Django (Jamie Foxx), a freed-slave-turned-bounty-hunter as he attempts to free his wife from notorious plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). He is assisted by, or assists depending on your point of view, Dr King Schulz (Christoph Waltz) a kind and loquacious German bounty hunter.

There has been a lot of talk about what this film is about. Is it a black man’s slave revenge fantasy? Probably not, since it’s Tarantino, more likely a white man’s slave revenge fantasy, but that might not be right. Given Schultz’s involvement with Django’s quest, you could argue it’s about working through white guilt instead.

What I can say for certain is that it is a huge amount of adolescent fun. There is blood and gore in silly amounts and the over-the-top violence is so enjoyable, it borders on comical. My one complaint is that the action stops disappointingly soon that leave you hungry for the next bloodbath.

Foxx plays a strong, mostly silent character, with a hint of a young Will Smith about. His paucity of dialogue probably serves as a good counterweight to Waltz’s verbosity. This can be forgiven because Waltz is a constant delight for every minute that he is onscreen. He has by far and away the best character in the film, with only Steven, the old cantankerous slave played by Samuel L. Jackson even coming close.

What this film is really about is the 1970s. From the opening theme song through to the awkward zooms and pans, Quentin Tarantino makes it clear what he’s thinking about. This applies equally to the N-word, applied liberally throughout the film. It’s not appropriate because it’s set in the 1850s Deep South; it’s appropriate because it’s a tribute to 1970s cinema. (Of course, it’s never appropriate). There were only a few moments with awkwardly out-of-place R&B soundtrack that dragged me back to this century. Also, I’m not sure films were quite so long in the 1970s.

If you like Tarantino, you’ll like this. It has enough of his motifs spread throughout the film. If you like your violence adolescent and over-the-top, you’ll like it too. To anyone else, watch it for Christoph Waltz.

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