Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, like Inglourious Basterds, takes history, gives it a Tarantino twist and creates a whole alternate world.
Set in 1858 Django Unchained is basically a western, men in hats on horses shooting people. But of course there is more to the story than that. The German bounty hunter Dr King Schulz (Christoph Waltz) frees Django (Jamie Foxx) from slavery and takes him on as an “apprentice”. While the two unlikely partners go looking for bad guys on wanted posters, ruthlessly kill them and cash in the reward a second layer of plot is slowly revealed.
Django wants to find and save his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Intrigued by the name Dr. Schultz tells Django about the German myth of Brunhilde and her lover Siegfried and decides to help the “real life Siegfried” free his Broomhilde.
After a lot of violence, blood and gore Django and Dr Schultz discover that, Broomhilde is held by the Southern aristocrat and sadist Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) on his Plantation Candyland.
Django Unchained is a homage to the spaghetti westerns of the 60s, just much more violent and bloodier. Like so many of Tarantino’s films, revenge is the main theme, justifying the bloodlust of its lead character. And while the interwoven storylines and plots need time to be told, 165minutes (no break) does seem a little excessive and is a true test to anyone’s bladder.
However the strong cast and witty dialogues do keep you entertained, especially DiCaprio’s captivating the complex villain Candie. He is charismatic, brutal and deeply racist, with a weirdly intimate relationship to his house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).
Both Waltz and Foxx are also enthralling to watch, Waltz embodies Schultz as a true gentleman, charming and very eloquent, educated but with a ruthlessness streak and a deep-rooted sense of right and wrong. Foxx seems to channel Clint Eastwood at times, with his silent demeanor and expressive gaze. And there is a whole slew of recognizable faces in smaller, supporting roles, like Don Johnson, M.C Gainey, James Remar and Tarantino himself.
Although Django Unchained is undeniably a Tarantino film, laced with black humour and playful brutality, it isn’t as good as Inglourious Basterds. This is partially due to the overindulgence in length and partially due to a disconnect in the storytelling. Too many narratives are equally weighted, and some that could use a stronger focus lack punch. But this doesn’t entirely distract from the unique storytelling, strong characters and great actors, making Django Unchained overall another successful Tarrantino film.