I can't believe that it's been 20 years since a young upstart director named Quentin Tarantino first burst onto the scene with his award winning film Reservoir Dogs. He took the Sundance Film Festival by storm that year and announced himself as someone to look out for. Two years later, with the release of the brilliant film Pulp Fiction, he had Hollywood and the rest of the film world heaping praise on him. He had become an absolute sensation and a director that many wanted to work with. Now 20 years, and 8 films later, he has released his homage to the spaghetti western genre, the blood-soaked masterpiece known as Django Unchained.
It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Tarantino's work and to say that this film was one of my most hotly anticipated films of the year is an understatement. Biased viewpoint aside however, I can say without a doubt that Django Unchained completely lived up to all of my expectations and is easily my favourite film of the year thus far. And seeing as how the year is just about over I highly doubt that anything is going to top it.
This film has it all folks; brilliantly written characters and dialogue, superb performances from an amazing cast, rousing action sequences, gorgeous cinematography, great soundtrack, loads of humour, tension and drama, and all around masterful direction by a filmmaker on top of his game. I hope that this film gets showered with nominations come awards season.
Set in 1858 in the antebellum south, the film begins with Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a former dentist turned bounty hunter purchasing a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) because he can identify the infamous Brittle brothers who Schultz is after. Schultz takes a shine to Django when he realizes that they make a great team together and he offers him a partnership and a promise of freedom. When Schultz learns that Django has a wife (hilariously named Broomhilda Von Shaft) that has been sold to an infamous Mississippi plantation, he agrees to aide in her rescue. This means posing as slave traders and having to deal with the despicable character Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who owns Candie Land, the plantation where Django's wife is being held. I don't want to say too much about what happens at this point as it's a lot more fun just discovering it on your own. There are a ton of memorable moments throughout the film.
Clearly, Tarantino is drawing inspiration from the works of Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci and Sam Peckinpah with his sweeping vistas shot mostly in Wyoming, the Ennio Morricone score that permeates the film and really captures that era of the spaghetti western, and the copious amounts of blood spattered gun battles that must have set a record for the volume of blood squibs used on a film. Everything about this production just feels authentic to the time period and that includes the overuse of the infamous N-word that will surely offend some, but is necessary if historical accuracy is to be maintained.
The thing that really stood out the most in this picture though is the incredible performances given by all involved. Christoph Waltz's King Schultz is far and away my favourite character in the film and quite possibly one of the best characters that Tarantino has ever written. He has such an eloquent charm and likable demeanor and I literally hung on every word he spoke. Even when he's about to perpetrate an act of violence you still can't help but root for him. Jamie Foxx delivers one of the best performances of his career as the understated Django who has a steely determination to rescue his wife by any means necessary. He is a true noble hero that the audience will surely be rooting for. I loved the friendship and level of respect that develops between Schultz and Django. Their partnership is the glue that holds this picture together and they work tremendously well with one another.
Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent as the sleazy owner of the plantation known as Candie Land. He relishes the sight of Mandingo fighters beating each other to death in front of him all while oozing a smarmy southern charm. This is another Oscar worthy performance and a departure from the cinematic heroes that he usually plays. He is quite a disgusting individual to say the least. Samuel L. Jackson is wonderful as Stephen, the house slave and confidant to Calvin Candie. He has some absolutely hilarious lines and plays a very integral role in the final act of the film.
There are numerous other smaller roles featuring cameos from some very recognizable faces throughout the film, but I'm not going to list them all and spoil the fun. Needless to say I was chuckling quite a bit throughout much of this film.
And that's the main point I'd like to make about this movie - Django Unchained is just awesome entertainment. It's a visually stunning and viscerally stimulating piece of cinematic magnificence that had me laughing, cringing and cheering all at the same time. Films like this are why I enjoy going to the movies so much. It's the full meal deal here folks, but only if you aren't afraid of a little shocking violence from time to time. Of course, if you are then what the heck are doing going to a Quentin Tarantino picture for in the first place?
I loved every blood-soaked minute of this fabulous film. Django Unchained is one of Tarantino's best and I can't wait to see what he has in store for us next.
I give Django Unchained a 10 out of 10.