Film review: Django Unchained

  • Aileen Suresh

“Django. The D is silent.” This memorable quote will soon be renowned in future film history. Already swinging its lasso around two academy awards, this Western provides a strong talented cast, quirky dialogues, and an impressive script. In short, there is no surprise that Tarantino has won an Oscar for the best screenplay written for the screen, as he shoots his trademark gun of mixing blood and romance together. Set in in the Deep South this western has a twist; the man in the cowboy hat is black. Although there have been some black cowboy heroes in previous Hollywood films, nothing is comparable to Tarantino’s creation of a black hero. This film does fit into the Western genre, but it has a touch of medieval folk lore to it. Django (Jamie Foxx) is a free slave, working for Dr. Shultz (Christoph Waltz) as a bounty hunter so he has the hope of finding his estranged slave wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from the clutches of Plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo Di Caprio). The epic nature of this knight on his quest to find his damsel in distress is stretched across the dry lands of the South. The journey is met by monsters in the form of slave owners and Django battles his way through, his gun held high like a sword.

Jamie Foxx plays his part well. The air is full of tension, as Foxx is convincing as a man in pursuit of his lover. The poor scar backed slave is transformed into a hero, as he shoots and kills men in the name of love. Washington captures her scenes with her beauty and as the rescued woman; her lip quivering and tears are presented to perfection. However the Oscar winning performance of Waltz is captivating from the moment he opens the scene and his German accent does help him authenticate his character. He delivers his line in a slow manner staying true to his character as someone that educates and helps others.  His dry sarcasm is accentuated by stony faced expressions, coupled with his matter-of-fact tone, when he kills slave owner Candie it becomes comical. Only Waltz could make killing someone look funny. Leonardo Di Caprio playing the villain is a new concept for him, yet there is no trace of his lack of experience in this film. The way he formulates a malevolent tone of voice, and crafts his smile to a half crooked grin had everyone gripping their seats in the cinema theatre, in the strike of each word. Samuel L Jackson is whipped up in this star studded assemble, playing the infatuated, loyal slave of Candie. He triumphs in his portrayal of a slave who helps to spread a reign over terror over those on the plantation. It is shocking yet upsetting to watch his obsession with the Candie that demonstrates the power of indoctrination upon the slaves. There is no doubt that the acting scenes were near perfect, the camera angles show every expression from love to fear to hate.

However the real star has to be Tarantino. The violence is exaggerated the blood and gore is not in short, but this is what Tarantino does best. His films may be gory, but each shot of blood holds strong symbolic value. One of the scenes that hold most memorable is when Shultz shoots one of his targets; the camera zooms in on the blood splattering over white flowers. The colour white symbolises purity and the blood splattering of it symbolises the corruptive nature of the slave owners. Profound symbolic scenes similar to this are prevalent throughout the film as Tarantino’s attention to detail is incredible.  The frequent use of the ‘N Word’ is very uncomfortable to hear, and the actors themselves expressed that they too felt uneasy in the early days of shooting.  Together with the violence it can be excruciating to watch. Yet all this adds to the authenticity of the film. Only Tarantino is bold and clever enough to make a scene with the KKK really funny. The brutality of the institution of slavery however is never neglected. Even the music is original, he mixes country music with the modern rap genre, even in the movies score Tarantino gives his audience a western that doesn’t just tell it from a more traditional white perspective. This film truly is a masterpiece. 5 stars.

Aileen is a first year American and English literature student at the University of Birmingham.

5 stars.

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