Django Unchained (2012) Review: One of Tarantino’s wildest and greatest rides

Django Unchained

Whenever director Quentin Tarantino announces that he will be coming out with a new film there will be lines and lines of people excited to see what he delivers. In his more recent work, i.e. Kill Bill, Tarantino took us for more of a entertaining ride rather than the all-around stellar work that he had early on in films like Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. He returned more to form in Inglorious Basterds which ranks in my opinion as one of his best behind the previously mentioned films Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. But his latest film, Django Unchained, has not only those memorable and amazing Tarantino characters that he made a staple in Dogs and Pulp but mixed it with the off the wall bizarre fun that he mastered in Kill Bill.

Django Unchained follows the story of a slave, Django (played by Jamie Foxx), who is recruited by bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz) to help him with his latest bounty but leads to the two befriending each other and hatching a plan to rescue Django’s wife Broomhilda (played by Kerry Washington). While the entire cast does an amazing job in the film, I feel like the two best performances came from Foxx and Waltz. Foxx fit right into the role of Django perfectly and played the character with such a fun vigor and strength that he ranks among some of Tarantino’s best protagonists such as Butch Coolidge (played by Bruce Willis) in Pulp Fiction or Lieutenant Aldo Raine (played by Brad Pitt) in Inglorious Basterds.

Foxx gave life to this character and played both a character that the audience could have immense compassion for but also a character that they could root for because of how much of a hero he was when he had to be. Waltz, like in Inglorious Basterds, commanded the scene with his great delivery of dialogue and the fact that at any point he could become almost superhero-like good at killing people and flipping the tables on someone. I find that to be the most impressive quality that Waltz has had since jumping on the American scene with Basterds, I love the way he can turn the tables on someone throughout a speech. It happened first in the beginning scene of Inglorious Basterds and even took place later on in the climax but this quality was brought back immediately in Django Unchained and popped up throughout the film.

Outside of the two leads, Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie and Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen were both outstanding performances. What was so great about DiCaprio’s was how out of character it was for him as an actor especially for someone so well known to be being playing this character, it was fun to watch him do it and do it well. Once he was on screen he was grabbing your attention.

As he says in the film, “You had my curiousity, but now you have my attention”. I felt like this line defined Candie well as initially you were not sure what to make of him but once you got to know him more and witnessed how he operated you became more interested and amazed at how well DiCaprio was playing him. Jackson was outstanding in a Tarantino movie like he usually is. He comes into the film late but takes over the screen once he is on it. The dinner scene in Candie Land with DiCaprio and Jackson is amazing and easily one of the best of the film.

Django Unchained

While I have been harping on everyone having great performances I want to note that I was not at all impressed with Kerry Washington as Django’s wife. I know she did not have many lines and wasn’t really in the film long but she never made me very interested in her and while I rooted for her to get back with Django, it was mainly because of how cool Django was and not that I liked her. She wasn’t bad but she was very overshadowed by the other juggernauts in the film.

Another part I did not like was the lack of a great dialogue scene. In that I mean something like most of the conversations between Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, the bar scene in Inglorious Basterds, and the diner scene in Reservoir Dogs. The dinner scene was great and wasn’t bad but it never had that amazing or absurd ending like the other examples would have and left me a little unsatisfied in that regard.

Tarantino was great and him in the director’s chair is always nice to see. His cameo in the film was not one of his greatest roles but was so short-lived that it really didn’t mess anything up for me. I thought that this was some of his stronger work in cinematography mainly thanks to the landscapes he was given and his script was superb. It has a sensitive issue in it and he dealt with it very well and tried not to put images in the film that would be offensive. The grim images of slaves being tortured were important for the plot as it made Django and Schultz’s mission more important to complete and rid the world of these evil people.

Django Unchained was not only one of the best films that I have seen this year but probably, in my opinion, Tarantino’s second best behind Pulp Fiction. The way he delivered both with stellar dialogue and characters as well as crazy, absurd spaghetti western action was amazing and the film contained some of his best performances to date. Foxx, Waltz, DiCaprio, or Jackson should be nominated in some regard as well as Tarantino for directing and screenwriting. I absolutely loved the film and can’t wait to find more in multiple viewings.


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Zach Dennis is currently a Junior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and is a Journalism/Electronic Media major with a Cinema Studies minor. He is from Chattanooga, TN.

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  1. Mike G

    Great review! Still haven’t had the chance to see it, but I just know I will love it. Tarantino hasn’t disappointed me yet.

  2. Been hearing some mixed takes on this film. I will be watching it next week when it will open here and get back to you, thanks for the review.

  3. I am now more familiar with the plot of Django Unchained; this article serves as a bit of a primer in this regard.

  4. It was definitely wild.

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