Django Unchained is undeniably thrilling


Django (Jaime Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) embark on a violent journey to save Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Django Unchained is director Quentin Tarantino’s excessively bloody, yet enthralling revenge flick with a historic spin.

Dan Bidikov, A&E Editor

Your doctor tells you not to eat sweets instead of vegetables, and your obligation to feel cultured tells you to watch two hour conversations about gender roles instead of cool explosions.  It is easy for the above-average cinemagoer to feel guilty about enjoying something without family drama or fruitless romance.  Django Unchained, however, is a perfect occasion to choose dessert over the main meal.

Django is a smart yet traditionally entertaining film, an action-filled tale of escaped-slave-turned-bounty-hunter Django (Jamie Foxx) who searches for his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) alongside fellow bounty hunter and retired dentist Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz).

The squeamish and inexperienced may at first feel alienated or offended by the film’s extreme violence.  Those viewers are advised to bite their lips for the first couple of gruesome bullet wounds and prepare their eyes for a quick glimpse of genitalia, as these shocking scenes add to the rawness of Django.

As Django and Dr. Schultz set out on adventures, their characters mesh perfectly and the actors play off of each other as soon as they meet on screen.  Their interaction with the antagonist, over-the-top planter Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), is both hilarious and tense.  The performances are strong all around, although the exaggerated southern accents infrequently fall apart mid-sentence.

Samuel L. Jackson covers the supporting role of Stephen, the submissive head house slave and Uncle Tom figure of the movie.  He and DiCaprio clash with the quirky, likeable protagonists.  With each glance they exchange the air between them grows more volatile, until it literally explodes in the satisfying conclusion.

The cast takes each detail in their performance to the extreme, portraying their characters on screen as beyond human in the insanity of their actions and behaviors. Every character is overdone, with mannerisms and tendencies that are a step more ridiculous than in most cinema, and a staircase more outrageous than real life.

Venerable Western film actor Franco Nero makes a cameo that older crowds will appreciate.

The movie carries controversial political messages.  The wealthy slave owner stereotypes are as amusing as they are historically inaccurate.

While the conflict between the anti- and pro-slavery characters is interesting, do not overthink it.  Try not to ponder too much about race relations as Django gleefully beats an overseer to death with a whip, or it will become less radically entertaining and easier to complain about.  Be mindful to take Django in terms of its historical context, like you would Huckleberry Finn.  It doesn’t matter if the constant “n-word” dropping and violence bordering on levels in Tom and Jerry cartoons are there for a political reason.  The gore is awesome, and the racism is a great vehicle for character development and storytelling.

Django is the first Tarantino film to go without the editing expertise of the late Sally Menke.  The new editor, Fred Raskin, managed well, endowing Django with shine and style.  The soundtrack is full of music composed specifically for the film, most notably Ennio Morricone’s “Ancora Qui,” which fit the exploitative tone of the film.

Tarantino’s ability to bounce from a touching shot of Django’s face as he wishes for an end to his wife’s abuse to a dynamic shootout is key to setting the film apart from other action movies, dramas, and comedies alike.  Django is delicately made, powerful, and easily the most entertaining movie of 2012.