Oct 7, 2013

[Movies] Django Unchained (2012)

Quentin Tarantino movies are certainly a most unique experience. Over the years we've had the pleasure of enjoying quite a number of his movies with distinct time period settings and flavors. But in the end, you know that they're Tarantino movies for a variety of reasons.

Django Unchained isn't necessarily different in that regard - it's a movie with a generous helping of almost cartoon violence, profanity, and of course unique and quirky characters. And more than the wanton violence and buckets upon buckets of fake blood that makes these movies so much fun. It really has to do with how fulfilling it is to see these fully-developed characters interact with one another.

And while it at times seems a little silly how filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino like to stick to a certain limited stable of actors and actresses across his movies, one can't really complain about his choices. While Tim Burton has the likes of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, Tarantino has quirky actors like Christoph Waltz (whom I love so much as an actor) and Samuel L. Jackson.

Synopsis: Django Unchained is a 2012 American Western movie written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The movie has received a number of awards nominations including the Academy Award for Best Picture. Christoph Waltz also won a number of awards for this movie including the Academy Award, the Golden Globe and the BAFTA awards for Best Supporting Actor. This movie holds the record for the highest-grossing Tarantino movie to date.

At first we meet Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German dentist who shows interest in buying one of the slaves being transported by a the Speck Brothers. His goal is to acquire a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) given that he believes that Django has knowledge of the Brittle Brothers. Our friend is more than just a dentist - he's also a bounty hunter with a warrant to take in the Brittle Brothers dead or alive. Thus the two end up working together once he manages to liberate Django from the Speck Brothers.

Given some sense of responsibility Shultz feels having been the one who had freed Django, he decides to take him on as an apprentice in the bounty hunter trade until winter rolls along. Thus the two work together to hone Django's skills until he becomes a pretty crack shot with a gun. Beyond training him to be a bounty hunter, Schultz also promises to help Django find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). In time they learn that she's now the property of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), owner of the CandyLand plantation. They just have to figure out how to liberate her without getting themselves killed.

Don't get me wrong, but Christoph Waltz truly steals this show away from everyone else. There is no single character who makes as much of an impact on the audience as Schultz does through his zany humor and his lethal efficiency as a bounty hunter. We had already seen his range as a dramatic actor with lighter comedic moments in other Tarantino movies like Inglorrious Basterds to be specific about things. But he's in even grander form here as the bounty hunter mentor Schultz, who just happens to have background as a dentist. I mean seriously, this role could not have been further tailor made for him.

Jamie Fox, Leonardo DiCaprio and all the others are certainly still respectable in their roles and how they performed on screen, but Waltz just runs away with the whole movie that one can only wonder why he was not written as the lead character. We should totally petition for a Waltz-centric Tarantino movie!

The movie still has a heck of a lot of violence, but thankfully most of it just consists of some pretty fancy gunslinging. There's a few more macabre scenes that push you sense of decency through a clever combination of on screen action and off-camera audience speculation. But the scenes in general are theoretically horrific and Tarantino manages to allow viewer imagination to fill in the more gruesome bits whether you like it or not. Try not to be too squeamish about it.

The movie has a fairly light tone and a decent amount of humor woven into things despite the violence and the killing. Plus there's the fact that it deals with the rather heavy subject of human slavery, even if many liberties were taken in presenting scenarios of what used to happen to slaves in America. And the core message about how wrong slavery was is presented in very clear black and white terms for the most part. We are made to be horrified by what the slavers do and we celebrate their deaths at the hands of Schultz and Django.

This is definitely one of Tarantino's better quality films overall. Sure all of his movies are pretty fun in their own way and you could argue that other movies had been more entertaining overall. However this one had a clearer objective of what it wanted to present to the audience beyond a mere happenstance story and the fact this story and its message was done so eloquently is what makes this movie more interesting than others.

Django Unchained is a certainly unique creation even for Quentin Tarantino. It has all the good stuff like old movie references, comic blood and lots of violence, among others. But at the same time the characters are rich and nicely diverse and their back stories are appropriately complex. And this is why the movie gets 4 last-minute bounty kill reveals out of a possible 5.

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