Quentin Tarantino’s latest western-style flick, Django Unchained, played exactly as expected: a fresh and well-composed plot, over-the-top visuals, and buttery dialogue. The film entertained without following oversimplified Hollywood patterns, making for a delectably deep viewing experience.
Paced but not plodding, the storyline marinated slowly while the scattered spice of Tarantino’s trademark action scenes prevented viewers with short attention spans from losing interest. The mixture of piquant conflict, nutty comedy, and refreshingly genuine moments built up enough layers kept the audience guessing without resorting to M. Night Shyamalan twists.
From a composition standpoint, Django had enough exciting shots to make a film student’s mouth water. The contrast theme clearly shone through, from the juxtaposition of modern rap on Civil War era action to the old western-style titles in a modern film (which were all well-done apart from the garish Mississippi location title whose ungainly crawl across the screen simply annoyed).
The combination of blunt Django and eloquent Dr. King Schultz created a robust recipe for dialogue. The movie contained a plethora of quotable lines, although admittedly some of the best were already in the trailer. Still, Tarantino excels not with one-liners but with often drawn-out exchanges about the minutia of life. Some of the best scenes consisted simply of Schultz’s lightly accented small talk with minor characters, or Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s exaggerated fawning over Leonardo DiCaprio’s.
Overall, this saporous movie didn’t disappoint, leaving audiences hungry for Tarantino’s next offering.
For the purpose of full disclosure, I have to admit that Django Unchained was my first taste of the Quentin Tarantino experience. Therefore, I cannot compare Django to the likes of Tarantino’s other already widely popular films (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, etc.). That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which had me falling out of my seat with laughter more than once.
My favorite scene was a comedic, irreverent allusion to the dawn of the Ku Klux Klan. Few directors could tackle such politically incorrect subject matter, but Tarantino pushed the envelope just far enough into the comedic realm of absurdity that this scene (which involved white plantation owners arguing over whether or not to wear their new white masks) was perhaps the highlight of the flick.
The only minor complaint that I had with Django Unchained was Tarantino’s somewhat excessive use of graphic violence, which somewhat overshadowed the film’s more serious social commentary concerning the brutality of slavery in the Old South. While some scenes, such as the horrific treatment of Django’s love interest, the slave Brunhilda, brought me to tears, my emotions were quickly redirected to the grotesque (and exaggerated) spattering of blood in the following scene. The level of graphic violence was unnecessary, distracting, and frankly disgusting. Nonetheless, Django Unchained was masterfully effective in so many other respects that this proved to be little more than a mild annoyance in my overall enjoyment of the film.
Unlike the other two, who appear to have mostly positive things to say about Django Unchained, I did not find the movie as entertaining.
My problem with the movie is that it almost seems to try to take itself seriously. The style is similar to Inglourious Basterds or Kill Bill—that is, typical Quentin Tarentino—but unlike those movies, it feels like Django Unchained tries to have real, heavy themes—unlike typical Tarentino. The result is something that suffers from manic-depressive disorder—a bloodbath one second, and depressing depictions of the realities of slavery the next. The juxtaposition is jarring, and as a result, I found it immersion-breaking; it was hard to get “into” the movie when it kept jumping around. I don’t expect much from the movie, I just want it to decide what it wants to be.
But all of that is essentially a storytelling problem, which says nothing about the rest of the movie. Such as the acting, for example; Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz did a good job making their characters entertaining, and Samuel L. Jackson made me laugh on quite a few occasions. The music was also really enjoyable—with the exception of one bit where the music suddenly went from western to hip-hop, which was still good, if a bit out-of-place.
So should you see this movie? I personally wouldn’t recommend it. There are other (better) movies currently in theaters. That said, out of the six people I saw Django with, I’m the only one who disliked the movie, so perhaps public opinion is against me.