The best thing about sitting down to watch a new Quentin Tarantino movie is that you are already guaranteed a great story, a great script, and plenty of violence. Django Unchained is no exception. Almost three hours of gun-slinging, horseback, bloody action displays the horrors of the slave trade in the same way that Tarantino’s last film, Inglorious Basterds, showed you the Nazi’s merciless approach to achieving supremacy. It is unflinching and unforgiving and yes, sometimes hard to watch – but it’s a Tarantino movie, so what do you expect?
Like Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained is ultimately a story about retribution. Jamie Foxx’s hero, Django (“The D is silent”) is a slave, found by Cristoph Waltz’s dentist-come-bounty hunter Dr King Schultz. In return for his help in identifying the Brittle brothers, Schultz helps Django search for his enslaved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Their search takes them to Candyland, the plantation owned by Leonardo DiCaprio’s sadistic and pretentious Calvin Candie, where the brutality of the slave trade is made plain to see.
Django Unchained is not just a fantastic movie, but a clever one too. Tarantino’s script is sharp and funny in all the right places (as well as some unexpected ones), and it’s filled with imagery so subtle that you’re at risk of missing it in the richness of the all-out action. Red blood spraying over white cotton, for example. Though critics argue that it’s drawn out and far too long, what we’re shown is what we need to see. Prancing around on a dancing horse might not, at first, seem necessary but in the context of the scene it’s a metaphor for Django’s much-desired freedom.
The cast are all so good that awards should be weighting down their mantelpieces. Foxx and Waltz are an ingenious pairing, almost like father and son in the way they behave together. DiCaprio’s Candie is a masterclass in smart acting. You think you have a handle on the guy and suddenly he’ll do something completely out of character, or alternatively will force himself to remain there even when he’s cut his hand open on a glass. Yes, that’s Leo’s real blood he smears all over Kerry Washington’s face. Give the guy an Oscar, for God’s sake.
It doesn’t need to go over the top with the violence because the subject matter is so permeated with it already, but the blood-spraying chaos that it does provide is oddly cathartic, and done in a way that at no point do you think that it’s gratuitous. That and the witty dialogue and sense of fulfilment makes Django Unchained already one of the best movies of 2013.
Bravo, Mr Tarantino. Your best film so far.
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