Django Unchained Just Might Be Tarantino's Best Film To Date.
Director: Quentin Tarantino.
Writer: Quentin Tarantino.
Studio: The Weinstein Company.
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio.
When we last saw Quentin Tarantino in 2009 with Inglourious Basterds, he presented us his aberrant take on WWII, the Holocaust and Hitler.
Now, back with a vengeance in the form of a pulpy Spaghetti Western, Tarantino takes on another of mankind's darkest moments with Django Unchained. Here, slavery and the years leading up to the Civil War are all fair game, and Tarantino targets these issues in a way that only the fast-talkin', fast-shootin' auteur can, offering up a film that hits as many odd bull's eyes as Tarantino can aim for, let alone nail.
Having so much of his canon dusted in Western influence (and even scored by Ennio Morricone), seeing Tarantino now unholster his love for this genre is akin to watching Jackson Pollock slop calculated paint strokes all over a canvas — if that paint was blood, his paint brush was Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz, and his canvas was the Old West.
With this unlikely dynamic duo — the dentist-turned-bounty-hunter Dr. King Schultz and his protege Django (the D is silent, and don't forget it) — Tarantino tells the tale of the newly freed Django's attempt to rescue his wife from her slave owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). And, in the process, Tarantino does in Django what Mel Brooks did in 1974 with Gene Wilder, Cleavon Little and Blazing Saddles.
An unlikely comparison? On the surface, perhaps. But, when you see the film, you'll realize that there may not be a more proper double feature.
As Brooks did with Blazing Saddles, Tarantino exposes here the animalistic nature of man during the times of racism and slavery. And not by turning away from it, either. Instead, he puts it right in his sights.
And, as a result, the whole film serves as a giant middle finger to political correctness, teetering ever so carefully on the edge between tension-filled drama and sharp-witted comedy, in the way that only Tarantino can pull off. For instance? Well, the dialogue-heavy scene between a group of KKK clansman arguing over the uncomfortable eyeholes in their hoods before a raid is pure Tarantino. And, of course, the movies features more uses of the N-word than a Paul Mooney routine, too.
This isn't meant as something to be embraced, of course. Nor does it exist solely to offend. It's simply the way in which Tarantino is exposing these concerns.
Mel Brooks once said that any time he wrote a joke for Blazing Saddles that contained the N-word or that could've been taken the wrong way (read: as racist), he had co-writer Richard Pryor “bless it.” There's an obvious parallel at play in Django Unchained between Tarantino and Foxx.
Yes, this is a film rife with dedication on this level. And it not be the odd masterpiece that it is without that ever-present commitment that every actor brings to the package.
Is it possible for everyone from a film to be nominated for or win an award? Because they all deserve one here.
I never could have imagined Waltz being more brilliant than he was when we were introduced to him in Basterds. And yet somehow, here, playing the tolerant doppelganger to his Hans Landa, he is even better, and equally as deserving of a Best Supporting Actor nomination — and perhaps even a win. As with his performance in Basterds, watching Waltz's eloquent delivery of every line of Tarantino's loquacious dialogue is like watching a gifted musician perfectly play a sonata.
Taking over the reigns from Waltz as the charming-yet-contemptible villain figure, Leonardo DiCaprio fills a dastardly role we've never quite seen from the leading man — which is exactly what makes him so good in it. He may come across as sweet as Candie, but he's a vile sonofabitch, that's for sure.
As for Foxx, who carries the film and the weight of his character not in his words but in his silence and stares, he truly completes Waltz's Schultz. And he's absolutely deserving of recognized with Waltz come awards season.
Really, though, the big thing this film has going for it — far as awards go, at least — it's that it could just be the one to deservedly earn Quentin Tarantino his first Academy Award. Twenty years since the director cocked and loaded himself onto the scene with Reservoir Dogs, he brings us one of his finest films to date in Django Unchained. Between its award-worthy performances, its action-packed, hilarious and oftentimes outrageous sequences, and its serious social commentary, this film is quite clearly the culmination of every influence, style, genre and the rule-bending filmmaking that's made Tarantino such a prolific and unconventional filmmaker.
With Django, it's Tarantino that has truly been unchained. And that is a very, very good thing, indeed.
Rating: 9 out of 10 revolvers.