Django Unchained, Movie Review
Written by: Michael Sorce
After years of torture and living as someone’s property, you’ve found someone who understands your struggle. You make her your wife and plan to escape from under the mighty hand of your owner. On a dark night, you both move quickly through the forest and toward freedom. They swiftly come down upon you, they beat your wife, and they brand both your faces with an “R” to indicate your status as runaways. Incredibly angry with you, your owner brings you to an auction and sells you and your wife separately, knowing what an impossible feat it would be for you two to ever end up seeing each other again. What would you do to get the one you love back? How much would you go through?
Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained may have been advertised as an explosive revenge movie, but at its core, it was the story of how far one man would go to get his wife back. It’s 1858 and Jamie Foxx plays Django, a slave separated from his beautiful wife, Broomhilda (played by Kerry Washington). He is purchased by Dr. King Schultz (Oscar-nominee Christoph Waltz), a German bounty hunter who needs help finding three outlaw brothers whom only Django can identify. The two form a friendship and Dr. Schultz offers to help Django track down his wife. This leads them to Candieland, the plantation run by the terrifying Calvin Candie.
Django and Dr. Schultz pose as slave owners looking to purchase a great fighter from Calvin so as to get into the underground slave fighting ring. Foxx’s Django ends up being quite the actor, sticking with his black slave owner character so far as to let a slave be killed in front of him without so much as batting an eye. It’s at this time that we see Dr. Schultz’ more sensitive side and understand why he felt the need to help Django reunite with his wife. He’s not used to the cruelty that Americans can display and has no idea what anyone’s use for slavery could be. When he realizes how much Django truly cares about his wife, he does everything in his power to bring the pair back together.
The film takes its time getting to where it’s going which allows us to spend some time with Django as he grows and develops into a true protégé of Dr. Schultz. When we first meet Django, he can barely speak (saying things like, “What that is?”) and hardly understands basic words in the English language (he asks the definition of the word positive). However, by the end of the film, Django is a new man, having learned a great deal from Dr. Schultz, including how to take advantage of those less intelligent than him. Django doesn’t appear to be smart at first glance, but he proves over and over again how clever and determined he actually is.
Tarantino somehow successfully made a spot-on Spaghetti Western set during a time when Americans still bought and sold people. His quick-witted dialogue was present as always and resulted in more humor than is seen in his past films. Django Unchained was a wonderfully told story that hit all of the beats of a western yet still had that classic Tarantino feel to it. It was nominated for five Oscars this year and though it likely won’t win the important ones, it was worthy of them all.