When seeing a Tarantino film there are certain things one should expect: gore, pyrotechnics, history (albeit an alternate one), and charming, likable, yet undeniably evil villains…with a particular emphasis on the plurality.
There is no good or bad in an alternate history by Tarantino, there is simply dead or alive, and if you’re deceased you most likely met your demise as the result of epic, physically impossible, but gory circumstances.
“Django Unchained” delivers on all of these, this time in the throes of American slavery with a spaghetti western flair.
When the morally ambiguous Dr. King Schultz (a former dentist turned bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz) buys Django’s (Jamie Foxx) freedom from his oppressors, and essentially frees the other slaves Django’s chained to, it could be seen as an act of kindness. Yet, calling Schultz a kind man would not do any justice to the complexity of his character.
His motives may be questionable, but nonetheless when he learns of that Django and his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) have been cruelly separated he offers to help, so long as Django sticks around and helps with the bounty hunting for a little while longer.
Django, now free from the bonds of slavery, is very clear in his intentions. He’ll do whatever it takes to get his wife back. Do the ends justify the means? That’s up to the viewer.
Enter Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio): plantation owner and all around skeevy guy. He also happens to be Broomhilda’s owner.
From here on out it’s a slippery slope that’s drenched with blood, but what did you expect?
What makes Tarantino’s bloodbaths watchable is the psychology and humor of it all, and that is certainly the case with “Django.” Much like “Inglorious Basterds” this film flips history on its head and asks you to be the judge.
Is it cruelty or justice when the formerly enslaved man slaughters a house full of people? Where does the line of racism fall?
The performances in this film are phenomenal. Mr. Waltz, as always, is brilliant in his precision and elocution, he is likable yet completely terrifying. Jamie Foxx’s intensity and focus give Django the kind of truth that he needs in order to be the hero of a battle where there are no winners. Even though it’s hard to approve of his actions at times, his drive is admirable and incredible to watch.
Then there’s the obvious villain of the piece Mr. DiCaprio as Calvin Candie. His charming cruelty is truly something to behold, you can almost understand those who seemed to have confused their dislike of the character with a dislike for the actor…almost…it’s called acting guys. And I must give props to Samuel L. Jackson’s stomach-turning turn as Stephen, Mr. Candie’s butler. His complete loyalty to his owner combined with an absolute lack of sympathy for those in similar circumstances to his own make him a character study all on his own, and Mr. Jackson absolutely nails it.
This movie explores racism, cruelty, and true justice in a way that only Tarantino could, and at the end honestly, it’s difficult to say who was right and who was wrong, but it was definitely one hell of a ride.