Django Unchained is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, a veteran of exploitation films whose debut feature Reservoir Dogs, depicted violent scenes punctuated with countless expletives—a politically incorrect style that recurs throughout his career.
This consistency in pattern brings to mind the implicit criticisms and allegations recently brought upon him during a heated exchange with Channel 4’s news journalist, Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Two decades in and Tarantino’s ethics as a film maker—it appeared—are suddenly called into question simply because the interviewer saw fit to venture (unannounced) into philosophical-social psychological territory.
“Why do you like making violent movies?”
“You get a kick out of it or just enjoy it?”
Seriously? Are these lines of inquiry even allowed in objective reporting?
Violence in films (it seemed) is now synonymously associated with gun violence in meat space. By refusing to answer loaded questions grounded in knee-jerk assumptions, Tarantino was thus rendered unprofessional and perhaps even tacitly guilty.
In my opinion, the accusative tone so implicit in the method of interview was intellectually dishonest and sensationalistic. Then again; given the recent spate of mass shootings occurring throughout the US, it is not surprising that film industries are now under fire for being socially irresponsible. After all, western attitudes dictate the need to claim or reclaim moral high ground by whatever means necessary. And if that includes pleading victim-status by assigning blame without so much as a proper debate, so be it. But I digress, so back to reviewing.
Inspired by Sergio Corbucci’s Django and Richard Fleischer’s Mandingo, this film is a highly entertaining fusion of Western-Exploitation genres depicting main protagonist Django’s (Jamie Foxx) transition from enslaved helpless negro, to a shrewd and sharp shooting hero.
Django Unchained is a classic example of metaphorical power put to brilliant, dramatic use.
From the opening; we are shown the rough and massive terrain Django has to surmount in his journey to rescue Broomhilda (deliberately misspelled from mythological maiden “Brunhilda” for comic effect)—his wife sold into slavery at Candyland. The villian standing in his way is a ruthless and sadistic man; Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), owner of the slave plantation where Hilda is held captive.
Now that Django’s escaped the brutal fate of being a slave, he will abide by the moral code of reciprocity and rescue the love of his life. As for how he came to possess the guts and resources to undertake this dangerous mission fraught with gun-toting white supremacists, well, that is explained by bizarre affinity with bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (acting maestro Christoph Waltz).
I shall not go into excruciating details and spoil this otherwise enjoyable film. It has a running time of 165 minutes but do not let that deter you from watching. Comprised of clever denotative and connotative symbols commonly used to great effect by cinematic auteurs, Django Unchained is an accessible yet dynamic piece of work. That Quentin Tarantino waxes lyrical and morbid humor (and gets away with using the n-word) in this superb revenge flick is just icing on the cake. I hope he wins an Oscar for best original screenplay.
P.S. It is a shame that Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t nominated for his chilling portrayal of Stephen, a racist black servant.