Excessive violence, copious amounts of swearing and multiple narratives that freely jump around are all tropes typically found in Quentin Tarantino films. The famed director’s latest movie, Django Unchained, certainly has gratuitous amounts of gore and a lot of language one wouldn’t use around their mother, but has one of the most straightforward narratives yet, and is better for it.
Instead of a narrative bouncing around the timeline, the movie purely focuses on recently freed Django’s (Jamie Foxx) struggle to get his wife back. It’s a refreshing change of pace and much kinder to the viewer’s train of thought than most Tarantino’s flicks.
This is not to say the movie doesn’t make the viewer think; on the contrary, the lack of a maze-like narrative gives the viewer more time to concentrate and dissect the characters themselves and allows for tension to build. But that delightfully uneasy tension wouldn’t be possible without the brilliant acting performance from the cast.
Christoph Waltz, as usual, steals the show as the bounty hunter who frees Django from slavery in hopes that Django will aid him in finding a particular set of outlaws. From the very first scene, considered one of the best and violent hooks of any movie this year, all eyes and ears are captured by the Austrian actor.
Waltz’s character is so intriguing and well played that he overshadows the rest of the supporting cast. While other supporting actor, and antagonist, Leonardo Dicaprio certainly had his moments, particularly the scene with a runaway slave. He does not have as much screentime as Waltz, which in turn didn’t give him as much of a chance to draw in the audience.
On the other hand, Samuel L. Jackson was fantastic in his role as an old slave who was somehow funny and sinister all at the same time.
The single weak spot in the cast was, surprisingly, Jamie Foxx. It was odd that Django kept saying he cared about his wife since his words felt hollow.
When the protagonist appears to lack any drive, it is hard to care about the character and his plight. Luckily the fascinating depiction of America at one of its darkest times, and stylistic directing, keeps it interesting.
Even the dialogue-heavy scenes are a wonder to watch with the creative shots done by the director of photography Robert Richardson and the clever writing by Quentin Tarantino.
But the writing isn’t all up to snuff. The last quarter of the film has a jarringly different feel from the rest.
A majority of the film, while exaggerated, feels somewhat grounded in realism until the last quarter, which throws all reality out the window and turns into more of an excuse to watch Jamie Foxx cause ridiculous destruction. This wouldn’t be a problem if the movie ended after the third quarter.
Instead, audiences are subjected to a few scenes that don’t add any emotional or meaningful impact to the story.
Django Unchained still works as an entertaining pulpy popcorn flick filled with interesting characters, well crafted tension and a talented cast and crew. That being said, it is also set in the single grossest and most disgusting periods of American history, and could deliver a really powerful and profound message, but fails to deliver anything deeper than slavery is bad, really bad, don’t do it again.