Set in 1858 in America’s Deep South and Old West, Django Unchained tells the story of Django, a slave played by Jamie Foxx, who is separated from his wife by a cruel slave owner and sold to a different master. Django is then unexpectedly ‘bought’ by a German dentist-cum-bounty hunter Dr. Schultz, played by Christopher Waltz, and given his freedom. Schultz then proceeds to train Django in the art of bounty hunting and they make a pact to work together until the winter is over and then to find and free Django’s wife, Broomhilda.
Plantation owner Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is holding Broomhilda at his exuberant plantation ‘Candyland’ and, upon learning this, Django and Schultz think up a cunning plan to rescue Broomhilda. Needless to say, things do not go as smoothly as expected and lots of gun-toting and blood splattering ensues!
So, is the film any good? Well, in terms of enjoyment, Django is very enjoyable. It is visually slick and features generally smart banter, which you’d expect from any Tarantino flick, but his trademark ‘cool’ music and text transitions/segues occur in an all too predictable, and therefore uninteresting, fashion. If you’ve never seen a Tarantino film it’s possible you’ll be blown away by Django, but if you’ve seen some of his other – and far superior – films, you’ll be a bit disappointed.
The ingenuity of Tarantino’s last film, Inglourious Basterds, is simply nowhere to be found in Django and, at times, the plot and dialogue even feel like they were peeled off the editing floor of Kill Bill I/II and then stuck together to make another, slightly inferior film that was quickly recontextualized and set in slave-era America (probably in order to come across as a more challenging and interesting film than it truthfully is).
That said, Christopher Waltz is a joy (as per usual) and Leonardo maintains a solid screen performance throughout. Both of the aforementioned actors also outshine Jamie Foxx (who is, let’s be honest, usually sh*t) so this creates a bit of problem because he’s meant to be the lead character in the film! However, be that as it may, Django may also be Jamie’s best and therefore least irritating moment on the silver screen to date…hurray! But on another note, the female characters are strangely underdeveloped and flat for a Tarantino flick, so that’s a bit disheartening to say the least. (And dear God, Tarantino’s ‘Aussie’ cameo is embarrassing!)
In summary, the film has a lot more quirks than substance but the abundance of attention grabbing scenes, enriched by Leonardo and Christopher’s performances, undeniably keep things ticking along. And, thankfully, the violence in Django is far more theatrical than gruesome – with the exception of how the slaves are treated that is…those scenes are successfully grim. So, in short, Django is definitely unchained…but he ain’t off the hook!
Verdict: One thumb up, one thumb (a tiny bit) down.
Click here to see an eyebrow-raising CH4 News interview with Tarantino – he gets all defensive and angry when asked about movie violence in Django!