Movie Review - Django Unchained (****1/2)

Movie Review - Django Unchained (****1/2)


Genre: Western

Rating: R

Premise: Former dentist-turned-bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), frees Django (Jamie Foxx) from slavery, and the two team up to turn the tables on slave owners and rescue Django's wife from an evil plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).  Yup, it's a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Behind-the-Scenes: Tarantino originally offered the Django role to Will Smith, and also met with Chris Tucker, before Foxx nabbed it.

The Good: As far as revisionist history, slavery revenge epics go, Django Unchained is as good as it gets.  Tarantino continues to operate at the top of his game, mixing genres with gleeful abandon, and infusing every inch of the script with his trademark wit and style.  Waltz is every bit as good here as Dr. Schultz as he was as Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds.  The role was clearly written with Waltz in mind, and he crushes it.  Foxx is stoic, subtle, and silently commands the screen.  DiCaprio is an enjoyable villain, and gives a terrific supporting performance, but, surprisingly, it's Samuel L. Jackson as Calvin's head servant, Stephen, who proves to be the true big baddie.  As typical in a Tarantino film, the music - score and songs - is a star in its own right, adding immensely to the overall effectiveness.  Tarantino is a master at building suspense out of dialogue, as evident in the movie's best scene - an intense, slow-burn of a sequence set at a dinner table where Candie gets wise as to Schultz and Django's true intentions.  The movie is often bloody, very bloody, yet it remains an undeniable crowd-pleaser, and a great moviegoing choice this holiday season.  It may not win Oscars, but it deserves a place in the conversation for its quality filmmaking and for tackling the issue of slavery head-on, albeit in a totally Tarantino way.

The Bad:  Too self-indulgent at times.  Tarantino could have easily cut about 20 minutes from the 2 hour 45 minutes running time, including his own cameo as an Australian slave trader.  The climatic shoot-outs (yes, there are two) could have been condensed into one sequence.  The first one relies too much on repetitious geysers of blood, rather than interesting, varied action shots.

Should You See It?:  Yes.  It may not be Tarantino's best, but it is definitely better than almost every other movie released this year.

Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars.

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