Django Unchained

Highly anticipated and I had to wait a long time to get a copy of this movie. Quintin Tarantino has made some really good & fun movies and this one joins his previous bests Pulp Fiction & Inglorious Basterdsamong others as one to watch. Tarantino brought in Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio & Samuel L Jackson with Kerry Washington & Don Johnson in supporting roles. Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin & Pilar Savone produced the film which was also written by Tarantino. The film received very positive reviews from critics and was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture. Christoph Waltz received several accolades for his performance, and won the Golden Globe, the BAFTA and his second Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Tarantino ventures into pre-Civil War America and addresses racism, slavery & abuse while also paying homage to Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s & early 70s. The key to the film is, in my humble opinion, Christoph Waltz who’s portrayal of Dr. King Schultz made the film for me. The delightful gentleman bounty hunter  & ex-dentist who travels along in a horse carriage with a bouncy plastic tooth attached on a spring on top and his old world charms & manners is miles apart from his quick wit, equally quick draw on the gun and ruthless manner in which he disposes off the victims. And when confronted by the law or others, he has the audacity to smile and explain that he is a bounty hunter and that the men he shot were in fact wanted dead or alive and that anyone harming him or arresting him will be in violation of the law themselves. This he says with the smile of a doctor who is reassuring a young patient that it “won’t hurt”! The German doctor/bounty hunter frees Django from slavery and in return for helping him with identifying some wanted men, trains the ex-slave and takes him on as a partner.

After becoming a proficient bounty hunter trained in the job by Dr. Schultz the duo now head out to rescue Django’s wife, Broomhilda, who was also sold into slavery in the deep south. The pair track her to a plantation owned by the equally charming & ruthless Calvin Candie. At a club we are subjected to two black slaves forced to fight, gladiator style, for the entertainment of their owners. Under the pretense of purchasing one of Calvin’s prized fighters Schultz & Django make Calvin’s acquaintance and are invited to his home. The pair offer $12,000 for the slave and plan to obtain Broomhilda in the deal as well but Calvin’s loyal old slave Stephen (played by Jackson) suspects that the young female slave knows Django and their cover is blown. Calvin allows them to buy only the lady for $12,000 which Schultz agrees but the latter shoots the slave owner dead when they are about to shake hands. Shultz is also killed and Django fights a standoff with Calvin’s men. He gives up & is captured when Stephen takes his wife as hostage and later Django is tortured and sold to be taken to the mines for work. He tricks his way out of his shackles and kills the escorts and rides back into town. As revenge he kills off all the men in Calvin’s house including the sister but let’s the black slaves go. Stephen is shot on both knees and left to die as Django sets off dynamite in the house. He rides off with his missus before anyone else can notice.

I get why everyone loved the movie and Tarantino has done a fine job. I loved most of the characters, even Don Johnson who has a memorable scene with Klu Klux Klan wannabes who are so inept it hurt as I laughed, everyone except Django that is. Perhaps because I don’t like Jamie Foxx; I don’t see what’s great about his performance. It’s a little overkill at the end and I feel it’s just showboating. Style but no substance. Leonardo was great in his smaller than usual performance, Samuel Jackson excelled in his role as an elderly villain and Kerry Washington shined as well. When they reach the plantation part till the shooting begins – that was the part that bored me quite a bit and was duller than the rest of the movie. It is long, slightly too long at 2 hours and 45 minutes. I’d give it an 8 outta 10!

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