Django: Un(Off the)chained

21 Jan

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Why can’t a movie have comedy, drama, action and have each genre mesh together perfectly in an engaging story that stays moving. Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ seems to be the answer to this question and it’s the best answer given as of this writing.

Django Unchained is presented as a love letter to the spaghetti westerns told from the point of view of Tarantino’s wide-eyed love for the genre and its set in the slavery times before the American Civil War. The film stars Jamie Foxx as the titular Django, a soft spoken slave turned bounty hunter who is on a mission to find his wife. Along the trip to a plantation Django meets Dr. King Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz, a German Dentist who is actually a bounty hunter in pursue of a few slippery criminals whose appearances are known by Django, which is why Schultz needs him in order to identify the criminals. As the two spend more time with each other they grow a bond and do their best to help one another as they claim bounty’s as well as try and locate Django’s wife.

The plot seems simple enough but what is most surprising about this film is the presentation of its brilliant juxtaposition between the goofiness of old westerns and the severity of the time in which the movie is set in. A lot of the scenes are extremely graphic to the point of seeming cartoony but nothing seems out of place. Of course the film isn’t all guns and blood as the movie takes a good chunk of the run time to develop the three main characters and delve into the psychological aspects of the times without losing a beat. Without a doubt this movie pulls no punches when it comes to any of its scenes whether they be comedic, dramatic or both.

That’s right, “both,” because this movie and the way it creates scenes to pull at every emotion feel s jarring but in a good way. Several scenes of drama and obscene violence have bits of comedy sprinkled through them and vice versa. Every dialogue exchange holds some weight to it and never once did the plot drag. Every character is memorable from the main cast to the minor characters, everyone seemed to be in the right spot. Some of the language used might offend a number of people but context is key and it shouldn’t deter anyone from enjoying this film as a whole.

Big mention to the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio who successfully loses his baby faced screams and exchanges them for one of the most frightening yet entertaining performance to come from his repertoire as the sadistic slave owner of Django’s wife, Calvin J. Candie. Other actors such as Foxx, Waltz, and an especially surprising performance by Samuel L. Jackson bring their A-game to each scene and leave you wanting more.

The only faults found in the movie would be the character of Django’s wife, wastefully played by Kerry Washington, who is nothing more than a plot device. The movie also seems to be fighting with whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama but should be rewarded for taking a bold risk with the subject matter and utilizing it to its full potential. Another misstep would probably be a dubstep songs in the middle of the movie which is incredibly jarring, but the good outweighs the bad as the main score of the movie is the theme of the original Django western as well as some great original western tunes and keeps the western spirit alive from beginning to end.

Django Unchained is a fast, dramatic, bloody, hilarious, and unforgettable experience that will set the standard for and be one of Tarantino’s best works.

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