By Christian DiMartino
Rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity.
Runtime: 166 minutes
Now Playing: Regal New Albany Stadium 16, Regal River Falls Stadium 12, Cinemark Tinseltown USA Louisville
Five Stars out of Five Stars
For the past twenty years, writer/director Quentin Tarantino has been entertaining us in a hilariously cringing way. Sadly, those twenty years have brought us only eight films (not counting his writing and producing efforts). But yet, each one of those eight films has a marvelous quality. One of his best qualities is his killer dialogue, which is always whip smart and hilarious. Django Unchained is no exception.
Tarantino has a gift for making the most serious of topics comical. This was displayed three years ago with his last film, Inglourious Basterds (my favorite film of 2009), which revolved around a group of Jewish Americans known as “The Basterds,” who hunted down the Third Reich. With Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino re-wrote history in an extraordinary way; he created a Holocaust cartoon, which probably led to a lot of bickering from historians. His latest film, Django Unchained, is even more controversial. Some may bicker again. Forget’em. Sit back, shut up, and get consumed by QT’s latest revenge fantasy.
Django (Jamie Foxx, who I do not generally like, but is enjoyable here) is a slave during the 1800’s. Enter Dr. King Shultz (the expectedly brilliant Christoph Waltz, whose show-stealing performance in Basterds led him to a much deserved Oscar), a dentist/bounty hunter who lets Django free and gives him an offer he cannot refuse: if he helps him hunt down some people, then he will help him find his wife, Bromhilda (the always lovely Kerry Washington). Bromhilda as it turns out, is currently the slave of a lunatic plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio, giving one of his best performances).
Waltz is always perfect, but when DiCaprio is on screen, it is his show. Like Waltz’s character Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino has written yet another scene stealing villain. Candie is a maniac, and once DiCaprio steps on screen, he, as he says in the film,”had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.” Lastly, in his best performance in years, there is Samuel L. Jackson as Candie’s conniving slave, Stephen. Almost unrecognizable in latex, Jackson’s character is a mystery. He’s a slave playing on the wrong team, and he’s the sort of character just unique enough to be in a Tarantino film (QT’s previous film made a Nazi somewhat likable). Great supporting work from the three actors.
But while being hilarious, it is also real enough to make you cringe, and it does not shy away from the fact that this period happened. The “n-word” is used plenty, and it may make some uncomfortable. Also, the violence is pretty constant and graphic.
But the above content wasn’t enough to keep it off of the Oscar Ballot. Django Unchained is now nominated for 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, Original Screenplay, and Supporting Actor for Waltz. Though Tarantino was snubbed of Best Director, they at least gave it a very well deserved best picture and screenplay. DiCaprio and Jackson also did not make nomination lists. They did not give it quite as much justice as it deserves, but it is good enough for me.
What I admire about Django is the way that Tarantino blends drama, action, western, and comedy so well. Tarantino is one of the greatest current directors. He does not care about awards or Oscars. He just wants to give the audience what they want. There is not a boring second in the whole two hours and forty-five minutes. But it never lets you go. The cast seems to be having a great time, and so does the audience. It is nothing but a bloody good time from the opening credits until the closing credits.