Django Unchained is Quentin Tarantino’s homage to its spaghetti western inspiration and an unorthodox commentary about America’s slave trade. Set two years prior to the American Civil War, Django (Jamie Foxx) is freed from his brutal slave owner by a German bounty hunter who goes by the name of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz seeks the assistance of Django in order to identify the faces of three bounties that he is sought out to eliminate. The two soon form an incorruptible partnership and later seek to free Django’s wife from an infamous Mississippi plantation owned by the notorious Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Quentin Tarantino is the contemporary master of rebranding a popular genre of film (in this case the Western) into his own and making it entertaining and accessible for modern audiences. Django Unchained is no exception to this trend. This movie entertained me from start to finish through its natural dialogue, interesting characters that will live on and be appreciated through the ages, and exceptional cinematography which captured the essence of the time. At the same time, Django Unchained opens up new a line of dialogue where audiences can discuss the brutalities of that time. It is very rare for movies to achieve what Django Unchained has achieved: it has single handedly rebirthed the Western genre by rebranding it for the audience of today AND has raised further awareness about America’s brutal and unacceptable slave era. In my mind, there is no other contemporary work of visual expression that has managed to achieve this.
The dialogue in this movie is also fantastic. Tarantino writes dialogue like music in almost all of his films: it sounds natural and free flowing. His cast are given a lot of free reign to fully embody their roles and behave as their characters would if they were alive. Christoph Waltz, Leonardo Dicaprio and Jamie Foxx. Three outstanding actors who gave three outstanding performances. Each of these actors had their own “character defining” moments, which alone convinced me that I was witnessing theatrical greatness in front of my eyes.
But despise my praise for this film I do have some problems. For one, the sound-mixing. I’m not exactly sure who had a hand in this but the choice of music was so off-putting at times. It didn’t quite fit with what I was seeing on screen. For example, during the penultimate “shootout scene” in this film there was contemporary rap music blaring out of my speakers. There were also one or two weird edits in the film where it felt like a scene just cut off halfway. I wish I could point out the exact moment when this occurs but Django Unchained has a runtime of over 150 minutes, which I am not bothered to go over again to see where this occurs. Oh yeah, and the runtime. This movie did not need to cross the 150 min mark. The third act of Django Unchained drags harder than a 19th century chariot.
Overall, I consider Django Unchained to be a good Tarantino flick but nowhere near as great as some of his other films such as Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds and Reservoir Dogs. I appreciate this movie for rebranding the Western whilst raising some important awareness about America’s slave trade. Furthermore all the performances and dialogue are great as usual. But I take issue with some of the sound mixing and the third act, which extended its stay of welcome by a good 15-20 minutes.