The latest film contribution from Quentin Tarantino has brought with it high expectations, and a whole heap of controversy. Unsurprisingly, the movie epic about black slavery in 1850s Deep South of America, has attracted criticism for its glorification of gun violence, and its heavy focus on racism. That said, the only real question that Fwd/Film wants answering is, ‘is the latest Tarantino instalment any good?’
The film tells the story of Django (Jamie Foxx), a freed slave who sets off on a journey across the South to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of an evil plantation owner. His freedom is paid for by the enigmatic Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter who calls upon Django to assist in the capture of his latest targets. Django and Schultz strike up an unusual and unorthodox friendship, leading them to the sinister company of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Django’s enslaved wife.
Like nearly all of Tarantino’s films, Django is ultimately a revenge movie, which brings with it the satisfaction of watching the underdog gain the upper hand. And, like its award-winning predecessor Inglourious, the film is grounded in turning history on its head. Django presents the freed slave as our hero; a white knight intent on rescuing his beloved from her captors. Dr. Schultz aside, the white characters in the film are portrayed as uneducated and uncultured barbarians, ironically and satisfyingly reversing the social assumptions of the time. However, the truly remarkable thing about Django is its depiction of the brutality of slavery, on a level which has previously remained largely censored in modern film.
The film has come under heavy fire for its use of graphic violence, and racially derisive dialogue; an unusual criticism to make of a film about slavery. For, although the film does not stay 100% historically accurate, the sociological premise of the film is vital to the story. Ignoring the racial violence and prejudice language that existed in 1850s America would be to bury a shameful history, and further silence the voice of slavery. Additionally, the audience invest in the character of Django as a result of his oppressive and humiliating treatment at the hands of white Americans. To remove this portion of the story, would be to remove the audience’s desire for Django’s triumph over Candie and his slack-jawed subordinates.
The revenge violence in Django is another vital component of the film. While the concept of ‘an eye for an eye’ is understandably controversial, the revenge scenes in the film are inarguably cathartic, and will leave even the most timid cinema goer punching the air in support of our hero. Does the film encourage the broadening of a racial divide? Does it debase African American slaves, by turning them into the very violent, animalistic savages that white America feared them to be? It’s hard to ignore the flawed social commentary of this movie. But what Django does offer is an ultimately liberating voice for a history that has remained largely unspoken, and a fantastical tale of justice and retribution.
As solemn and somber as the backdrop of the film is, Django is also fantastically entertaining and darkly funny. Tarantino’s astonishing ability to find humour in the darkest of places is unfaltering, as even the intimidating presence of the Ku Klux Klan offers a laugh-out-loud comedy exchange. The film boasts outstanding performances from the entire cast, with appearances from Tarantino favourites Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Parks and Michael Bowen. Tarantino fans, keep an eye out for the brief appearance of Deathproof‘s Zoe Bell as one of Candie’s trackers. Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz undoubtedly steals the show as the intriguing Dr. Schultz, but Foxx is captivating and charming as our sass-mouthed protagonist. DiCaprio also gives a convincing performance as Calvin Candie, and sits surprisingly comfortably in his role as movie villain.
Well deserving of its 5 Oscar nominations, Django Unchained is yet another Tarantino masterpiece. Not only does the film offer a fantastic story and a unique hero, the cinematography and the soundtrack of Django is nothing short of perfection. Tarantino had already proven that he was content exploring the realms of the Western genre in Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, and Django only confirms this. Django Unchained is a gun-slinging, dust-kicking romp across the Deep South, and an uplifting alternative history of 19th century American slavery.
Django Unchained is in cinemas across the UK now. If you haven’t already, check out the trailer below. Let us know what you think..