A German dentist and a former slave team up as bounty hunters to clean up the deep South.
At a full 165 minutes, DJANGO UNCHAINED is not quite the year’s longest film but certainly the most entertaining and I, for one, could have happily watched it for another three hours! An original story, unpredictable plot, inspired casting, and sparkling dialogue more than prove that INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS was not just a flash in the pan for Quentin Tarantino. DJANGO is an epic blend of violence and comedy, tragedy and farce, gloriously filmed and saturated in color, with garish, off-beat costume design, underscored with a brash, clanging soundtrack. – all of its $100 mill. budget visible on screen.
Although Mr. Tarantino has been overlooked in the Best Director category for this year’s Academy Awards, his movie has garnered 5 Oscar and 5 Golden Globe nominations, as well as a bunch of British BAFTAs, winning 2 GGs just last week for best motion picture screenplay and best supporting actor (Christoph Waltz). Oscar nominations include awards for best supporting actor, best original screenplay, best cinematography and best sound editing.
The movie takes the form of a spaghetti Western – or a “Southern”, as Tarantino likes to say, for the action takes place south of the Mason-Dixon Line in plantation country, when slavery was at its height in the mid-1800s. It opens with a gang of chained male slaves trudging through the landscape, animated by a pair of white, whip-wielding slave-drivers. Suddenly a coach, with a giant tooth wobbling on its rooftop, approaches. Driven by Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a former German dentist turned bounty hunter, who makes a generous and genteel offer to buy one of the slaves, Django (Jamie Foxx) to help him in identifying a pair of plantation overseers wanted by the law. When the slave-drivers refuse, the carnage begins and Django is consequently “unchained”. Django turns out to be a natural talent when it comes to bounty hunting, so former slave and former dentist – the latter deadly, refined and eerily courteous – team up to clean up the South.
Although the role of Dr. Schultz is officially a supporting role, he is featured in almost every scene and his dialogue is a positive delight. The character is profound and multi-facetted – intrepid but not without fear, motivated by self-interest, certainly, but a man with principles. And Waltz makes the role his own – for indeed Tarantino wrote it for none other – and puts in a truly Oscar-worthy performance.
The duo’s early adventures prepare them for the film’s key mission, which is to rescue Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), enslaved on the lavishly vulgar Mississippi plantation owned by the vicious and hedonistic Mr. Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Mr. Candie gets his kicks, for example, by watching Mandingo fighting – two slaves fighting to the death for his entertainment. Such a detestable man, played with gusto by DiCaprio, is not easy to hoodwink, especially when his faithful house slave, who loves his master unreservedly, shrewdly looks out for his interests. Casting Samuel L. Jackson in the role of the truly evil, obsequious old house slave is as inspired as it is incongruous. Another gem is the brief cameo by Franco Nero, original star of the 1960s spaghetti western DJANGO.
DJANGO UNCHAINED (USA 2012); Distributor: Sony Pictures; Running time: 165 mins; Release dates: 25. December, 2012 (US) / 17.January 2013 (Germany); Director/Writer: Quentin Tarantino; Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington; Cinematographer: Robert Richardson; Production Design: Fred Raskin