Sean K. Cureton

Tarantino at his Very Best

In Movie Reviews: 2012 on January 12, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Theatrical Poster


Django Unchained
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
4 out of 4 stars

Django Unchained, the new film from acclaimed cult filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, is the most vividly imagined, expertly performed, and gratuitously violent film to come out this past year. It is also, undoubtedly, one of the very best films of the entire year, and a new gold standard from which to judge Tarantino’s existing and future film oeuvre. Where Tarantino’s last film was at times too ambitiously controversial for its own good, Django Unchained takes the same basic fantasy revenge concept from Inglourious Basterds and refashions it to suit the history of the American slave trade in a way that is over the top while maintaining an aura of authenticity, or at least as much authenticity as such a film can muster without toppling itself over.

Tarantino’s new film follows the story of Django (Jamie Foxx), a newly freed slave brought into an unorthodox contracted relationship with Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a former dentist turned bounty hunter who is in search of Django in order to correctly identify two slave owners with bounties on their heads. Eventually, Schultz and Django become true friends, and Schultz agrees to help Django free his enslaved wife, Broomhilde (Kerry Washington) from an exceptionally despicable character named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). In the mean time, all sorts of gory, bloody violence ensues, all leading up to the final sequence of the film in which Django marches away triumphantly with his wife, leaving a long bloody trail of mutilated bodies in his wake.

At first sight, it would seem as though the kind of hyperactive violence that Tarantino employs in this film is tasteless and utterly immoral, taking no account of any sense of decency and discretion for the real and dark American history from which Tarantino was inspired. On closer reflection and examination, however, one finds the stylization of the violence within the film so hyperbolic that it becomes unreal, an illusory dream world of violent retribution within which one can’t take anything too seriously. Upon such reflection, one can come away from the film not affronted by the film’s violence, but in awe of its fantastic imagery and fantasy, creating a world that one should not confuse with the real world, but a funhouse world of Tarantino’s cinematic artistry.

Django Unchained might just be the best film to date from Quentin Tarantino. Starting from the opening title sequence, which uses big, bold red lettering, inducing a nostalgia for the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns after which this film was inspired and shaped, the viewer can tell just how important a film Django is going to be in terms of Tarantino’s status as a true auteur, and the film that follows is nothing short of an instant classic. Christoph Waltz, last seen most memorably in Tarantino’s aforementioned Inglourious Basterds, provides comedic panache and brilliance in his role as Schultz, DiCaprio turns in one of his most challenging roles to date as the evil Candie, and Samuel L. Jackson’s turn as the conniving Uncle Tom character Stephen might be the most jarring performance of the entire year. Django Unchained deserves all the accolades it already has and will continue to receive, and is certainly worthy of the best picture nomination it has already received. Tarantino’s Django Unchained is the best film that Tarantino has made since Pulp Fiction in 1994, and will hopefully be regarded with as much respect and reverence with which Fiction is already regarded within Tarantino’s career as a truly exceptional auteur.

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