Review: Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino’s latest offering is an epic, three-hour long “Spaghetti Southern” that manages to invoke laughter, horror and sadness in the viewer.

Set in 1858, Django Unchained documents the violence, brutality and racial supremacy that pervade the Deep South two years before the Civil War.

Jamie Foxx steps into the titular role of Django Freeman, a former slave with deep animosity for those around him and a penchant for theatrical costumes. Christoph Waltz shines as the dapper dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Shultz who enlists the help of Django to track down the murderous Brittle brothers in return for a cash reward.

In the first hour of the film we witness Django focusing his resentment and honing his skills to become a literal killing machine, making enemies of everyone that strays in his path. In one standout scene, a group of dim bigots with Jonah Hill in their midst argue over the impracticality of Ku Klux Klan-esque masks.

After a “profitable” winter riding horses in their fur coats and annihilating villains for cash, the real purpose of their fate is revealed. Django informs Schultz that he is married to a fellow slave Broomhilda von Shaft who was raised by a German mistress. Schultz informs Django of his lost wife’s namesake; the legend of Broomhilda who was abducted by a dragon and taken to the top of a mountain while she awaits her hero to rescue her.

A plan is devised, Django and Schultz are to embark on a quest to find Broomhilda and pay for her freedom. This quest leads them to the feet of Calvin Candie, the tyrannical proprietor of the infamous plantation Candie Land where Broomhilda is enslaved. Candie is a camp-aristocratic and velvet-suited villain played to perfection by Leonardo DiCaprio.

A complex and deceptive plan is devised by the rogue Bounty Hunters to rescue Broomhilda, played by a quivering and shrieking Kerry Washington. We are also introduced to Stephen, Candie’s loyal but bitter head of staff who is enraged that Django is treated as a free man. Samuel L. Jackson offers a chilling performance as the domineering and intimidating servant.

The film boasts a stellar cast and the most powerful scenes are when Waltz and DiCaprio eloquently argue their opinions of slavery. Some may feel that Jamie Foxx gets a little lost in his role but the beauty of Django’s dialogue is the way he delivers such hateful and malicious lines to both slaves and supremacists in a gentle, indifferent manner.

As with all of Tarantino’s pictures, there is no shortage of violence. There are two distinct features; the brutal reality of how slaves were whipped, beaten and in some cases dismembered for the sheer pleasure of their owners; then there is the almost comic hyper-exaggerated violence where blood squirts like fountains and flesh explodes when it is pelted with bullets.

Not for the faint-hearted, but with an 8.7 rating on IMDb, Django Unchained is a frontrunner to be one of the best films of 2013.

Rating: 4/5

Freya Drohan

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