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Django Unchained

Django Unchained (2012)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington

Django Unchained is a bloody, brutal, and thoroughly entertaining Western with a wonderful soundtrack and full of quotable Tarantino dialogue. This movie is pure entertainment, but it’s the sort of entertainment that not many filmmakers are capable of creating. There aren’t many directors who are able to walk a thin line between gruesome violence and humour in the way that Quentin Tarantino can. He has once again successfully mixed humour with violence, like in almost all his previous films, and again he has done it in a highly stylized manner.

The movie is about Django, a freed slave who goes on a mission to rescue his wife from a brutal plantation owner, with the help of a bounty hunter called King Schultz. The movie begins with a scene that shows Django and several other slaves being led through a deep, dark forest during a very cold evening. During the first scenes of the movie, the atmosphere seems like a reflection of the lives of Django and the rest of the slaves that he’s being carried with. It is a dark, depressing atmosphere, and it looks like the shackled Django will never enjoy a sunny day as a free man. After entering the forest, the Speck brothers, the men who were transporting the chained slaves, fall upon a man who introduces himself with no signs of hesitation. He says he’s a dentist and his name is King Schultz. Dr. Schultz is the man who will unchain Django and eventually give him his freedom. He is an articulate person full of knowledge, and we immediately fall in love with his persona and the way he uses the language. He assists Django in tracking down and rescuing Broomhilda, Django’s wife, and this is how they become buddies.

The character of the villain Calvin Candie, however, is not so likeable. He is a ruthless slavemaster who is brutal to his slaves, and we learn this in the first few minutes we see him on the screen, in a scene when he is shown enjoying watching a brutal fight between two slaves, and he even refers to the whole event as fun. It was only after Django and Schultz first met Candie, that I began to realize how serious the whole deal was, and how tense things were going to get. I also noticed this difference, which was pretty obvious in the area that was surrounding Candie. The room surrounded by warm colours, the lit candles, the fireplace in the middle of the wall, right in front of the mandingo fighters who were fighting each other to the death. I'm assuming you get the idea.

I’ve been able to sort of separate the atmosphere that I noticed during the movie, into three chapters. The first, even though it’s a short one, is the dark atmosphere that I already mentioned earlier, which is present during the first few scenes of the film. The second chapter is the one in which Schultz trains Django to become a bounty hunter, a chapter in which we realize that the dark atmosphere is gone, with Django no longer being a slave. The third, which is the longest, consists of their first meeting with Candie, and their chase for Broomhilda, which is when things get more tense. I will not reveal what happens after they meet Candie, Broomhilda’s owner, just like I didn’t reveal why Schultz was so interested in Django in the first place.

Instead, I will try to analyze the director's utilization of gore and humor. Some scenes, in particular, make it seem like Tarantino was full of excitement throughout the making of the movie, which almost makes me laugh. I can almost imagine him gesturing, pretending like he has a gun in his hands while instructing Jamie Foxx and the rest of the cast on how to perform in the scenes that included bloodbath. I mentioned earlier that he is able to skillfully balance out violence and humour, but now I’ll just take a few examples. For instance, there’s the mandingo fighting scene which is very violent and disturbing, but it isn’t gratuitious violence, as a matter of fact I think it’s a very important scene for the film, because had Tarantino not decided to include these brutal scenes, ‘Django Unchained’ could’ve as well ended up as a dark comedy.

When I went to see the movie for the second time, I remember there was a woman sitting in front of me at the theater who kept her head down and her ears covered the entire time during the mandingo fighting scene, and also in the scene when D’Artagnan, another mandingo fighter and slave of Calvin Candie, is torn apart by a bunch of vicious dogs. I guess that for some people these scenes got tense and violent to the point that they couldn’t even stomatch them, and I don’t blame them one bit, because they are indeed very violent and disturbing. On the other hand, there are several humorous moments too, such as the KKK scene with Jonah Hill which had almost the entire audience laughing. This is why this film is so entertaining. It is exactly this mix of violence with humour that makes ‘Django Unchained’ such a highly entertaining experience. That, and the way the story is told, the memorable dialogue, the wonderful and unforgettable soundtrack, the typical stylish Tarantino direction and the striking cinematography.

It is, undoubtedly, also thanks to a wonderful cast of actors who deliver outstanding performances. Most would concur that Christoph Waltz steals the show as Dr. King Schultz, a charismatic character who most of people immediately fell in love with. Leonardo DiCaprio is also excellent as Calvin Candie, and Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as Stephen is also brilliant, a character that is as loathsome as Candie, but at the same time he’s also funny in a way, and ends up in some situations which the audience will find comical. Jamie Foxx does a quite good job as the leading character, but he is overshadowed by Waltz who is superb for the whole time he’s on screen. It is safe to say though, that each of them have their own part - it is Schultz’s show until we’re introduced to Candie, when the latter claims the show, and then the last part of the movie becomes Django’s show. And what a show it will be.

In conclusion, I will just say ‘Django Unchained’ is one hell of a ride. It is undoubtedly one of the best movies of 2012, and I feel it is Tarantino’s best work since Pulp Fiction and his most energetic film to date. It is by no means flawless, which is why I refuse to call it a masterpiece, but it is nonetheless a great film. If I ever make a top 100 list, I am pretty sure that this film will make that list. Tarantino fans will love it, and the movie enthusiasts that know how to appreciate film and Tarantino’s style of filmmaking will also enjoy it, on the other hand there’s the group of people who have never been fans of his work, and that group of people might not like it. After all, this is a Tarantino film. This is what the man himself once had to say on media criticism of violence in his movies: ‘Sure, Kill Bill is a violent movie. But it's a Tarantino movie. You don't go to see Metallica and ask the f***ers to turn the music down.’ So this is what I will also be saying to the people who criticise ‘Django Unchained’ for being too violent.