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Django Unchained’ brings back Tarantino

Ankur Chawla | Wednesday, January 16, 2013

“Django Unchained” paired great writing and directing with even better actors to be one of the biggest movies of the holiday season and on the Oscar shortlist for best picture of the year. Quentin Tarantino is known for his unique, out of the box and often-controversial films, and “Django” is no exception. In the so-called “spaghetti western” Tarantino explores the pre-Civil War South and the attitudes of and towards African Americans.

Jamie Foxx plays Django, a former slave who is purchased and freed by a bounty hunter, Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz), interested in the bounty on Django’s former owner. Their escapades are marked by witty dialogue and a dark humor surrounding the characters and racism of the time. However, only when the eccentric, wealthy landowner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his troupe of house slaves, advisors and his awkwardly close sister are introduced did the movie pick up.

After working with Dr. Schutlz, Django sets his focus on reuniting with his wife he was separated from, Broomhilda, who had been purchased by Candie. The interaction of Candie with those around him provides an, albeit extreme, window into the atmosphere of the early 1800s and actors such as Samuel L. Jackson and DiCaprio work incredibly well together.

The beauty of the movie comes from the depiction of characters and the persona Tarantino gives them. Much like in “Inglorious Bastards,” Christoph Waltz is impeccable in taking on his character, whether he is a vicious Nazi commander or whimsical dentist turned bounty hunter, and it is no surprise he won the Golden Globe and is an Oscar frontrunner. Though largely overshadowed, Jackson’s role as the humble sidekick to DiCaprio’s wealthy landowner is the best acting in the movie.

That being said, in my opinion Tarantino over sensationalized the issue of race simply for the sake of making a shocking film with the overuse of a particular word and repetition of dialogue and expressions. I understand the need to be historically accurate and building the backdrop of the movie, but it was done so to the point of excess.

Beyond the controversial nature, “Django” was also incredibly long at over two and a half hours, and seemed to drag at times. While admittedly most of the film’s humor and comic relief came during the dead time that didn’t move the plot forward, there was both too much build up and several times where the movie felt like it could have, or should have, ended.

Still, as a whole “Django” was vintage Tarantino, with incredible acting and at times brilliant dialogue. I do hope, though, that in the future, Tarantino does not make cameos in his movies and tries to limit them to a reasonable length.

 

Contact Ankur Chawla at achawla@nd.edu