Django Unchained is pure Quentin Tarantino, from its whip-smart banter to the bloody path that its heroes leave behind them - and this latest film falls firmly among the director's best.
Yes, Tarantino has done for Westerns what he did for World War II movies. All those Inglourious Basterds quotes added up to a war movie that was relevant to modern times while simultaneously paying tribute to the great films from that genre.
As teased in the Django Unchained trailer, the story follows Django (Jamie Foxx), a man we meet walking through the woods as part of a slave chain gang, led forward by some unsavory fellows. Christoph Waltz is Dr. King Schultz, a German dentist who is now making his living as a bounty hunter.
He is seeking Django and in the course of a classic Tarantino beginning, he and Django close the scene riding their horses away from a bloodbath. Dr. Schultz is seeking a trio of brother slave traders who are in fact wanted for various crimes. They are elusive and few have seen them... except Django.
In return for helping Schultz in finding these three men, he has agreed to free Django and the two will go their separate ways. The soon-to-be freed slave has plans of his own. He is seeking his wife Broomhilda, who has been taken to the plantation owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). The scenes between Foxx and Waltz are a cinematic dream. Here is a brilliant example of Tarantino's mastery of the art. It is pure movie magic witnessing two actors at the top of their game delivering such delicious dialogue.
Revenge permeates Tarantino's work, especially of late. In Django Unchained, slavery is substituted for Inglourious Basterds' Holocaust as the source of strife. The argument could easily be made that they are of comparable hells. Audiences see the evil within the institution that would spawn a Civil War two years later in Tarantino's story. It is on full display. The buying and selling of souls without any remorse permeates throughout, and DiCaprio's Candie is one of the worst.
After Waltz decides to help Django in his effort to reunite with his bride, the duo head into the hornet's nest under the guise of being scouts looking to secure fighters for a slave fighting circuit. They know a man as psychotic (DiCaprio's Candie is one of our Top 10 Villains of 2012) as Candie will not simply sell the woman... because he'll want to know why and he will not like the answer.
So, they hope to secure some slave fighters and then present a "oh, by the way" offer to purchase the house slave Broomhilda. See, Schultz delights in speaking his native German with her -- thus something Candie can appreciate.
But, this is a Tarantino tale and we all know that things will not go anywhere near the set plans.
When the story gets to DiCaprio's Candie's house, it slows a bit. But that is so the tense drama can play itself out. The reunion of Broomhilda and Django is gloriously emotional and the fact that they have to hide that they even know each other until this charade plays out is painful to watch. Yet it is equally a joy to witness the scenes through the brilliant execution of the emotion extolled solely through Foxx and Washington's pained eyes.
Also in DiCaprio's manse we meet Samuel L. Jackson's Stephen. He is the head slave of the plantation and rules with an equally strong fist as his master. Jackson turns in a performance that is a work of art. Few knew that amongst the huger parts in Django Unchained filled by Waltz, Foxx and DiCaprio, that the iconic Jackson would steal the film. He deserves serious consideration for a Best Supporting Actor trophy.
Speaking of Oscars, Django Unchained should earn plenty of nods. The Tarantino dialogue is as good as we've heard all year, deserving of a Best Original Screenplay nomination, and look for Waltz, DiCaprio and Foxx to all earn recognition as well.
Our Django Unchained review revels in the fact that the filmmaker has presented a piece of work that possesses comedy, romance, drama, thrills, guns and gravitas. Django Unchained is the perfect Christmas present from one of the cinema's most talented helmers.