Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson
Running time 2 hours, 45 minutes
His latest film, Django Unchained, will offend some, amuse others, and once again prove that Quentin Tarantino is an over-the-top director who knows his craft exceedingly well.
Set on the cusp of the U.S. Civil War and opening "somewhere in Texas," Django Unchained tells the story of an unlikely business partnership between a well-to-do white bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) and a quick-witted black slave called Django (Foxx).
The movie offers a refreshing alternative to pre-Emancipation Proclamation scripts of white power. For once, the black guy is the hero and idealized for "killing white folks and getting paid for it."
Yet many aspects of the film are quixotic and predictable.
The guts and gore viewers have come to expect from Tarantino are as explosive and goopy as ever. Handguns and rifles are the weapons of choice, yet hammers, whips, and flesh-eating dogs make appearances as well.
The ending is also nothing revolutionary- the evil white miscreants are gruesomely killed, the damsel is saved, and the hero and his lover ride off together into the night.
The acting, however, is predictably excellent. Tarantino's reputation for creating particularly despicable villains (think Hans Landa from Inglorious Bastards) is met with vengeance. DiCaprio plays Calvin Candie, a greasy plantation owner, who moves fluidly from charming host to contemptible slave hater.
One particularly powerful scene occurs at the dinner table when DiCaprio slams down his hand, crushing a crystal glass and spurting blood everywhere. (According to Variety, the blood is real and DiCaprio actually sliced open his hand.)
Samuel L. Jackson's performance as Stephen, a grumpy and sharp-tongued house slave, also deserves accolade. His semi-crippled shuffle and sardonic expressions reveal more about his character than do his words.
Despite the rather serious subject, the script is sprinkled with unfiltered humor that has some viewers chuckling uncomfortably and others giggling uncontrollably.
The silly banter among the KKK wagon raiders on the impracticality of masks with tiny eyeholes, for example, is side-splittingly funny. Without these comedic scenes, the zingy one-liners, and the eclectic soundtrack, the 2 hour and 45 minute movie would drag.
The sets are unassuming and the costumes are modest- except for Django's brilliant blue suit. The movie's X factor is the incredibly talented cast, both on screen and off.
Tarantino's films have a way of growing on the viewer long after the credits have ended. Django Unchained is no exception.