Review: Tarantino's 'Django Unchained' is As Cool As You'd Expect

December 25, 2012

Django Unchained Review

We finally have Quentin Tarantino's Western, and it's every bit as violent, profane, and wondrously enjoyable as we'd hoped for. Borrowing the name from the auteur's favorite spaghetti Western, Django Unchained is a rare Western about a freed slave who takes on the system the slave-owners have set up, and as with his films before, Tarantino breaks and bends the rules of classic and familiar storytelling while pushing the envelope with style and subject matter. His latest is just as cool as the rest of his filmography, and though the film doesn't stand out as one of his best, it is certainly an awesome time worth having.

The Django of the title, played by Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, is a slave in the Deep South, living the life of walking in chains until he is freed by one Dr. King Schultz, naturally played by Inglourious Basterds Oscar winner Christoph Waltz. Schultz, as Django quickly learns, is a bounty hunter, and the now-freed slave can aid him in his latest manhunt. This soon turns to partnership, and Schultz ends up helping Django to free his wife, Broomhilda, played by Kerry Washington, from the diabolical plantation owner Calvin Candie, played aggressively and amusingly by Leonardo DiCaprio. Talking and shooting clearly ensues.

The names listed in that synopsis were put in there to address a point with Django Unchained and Quentin Tarantino. The director, whether it was his first film, Reservoir Dogs, or his most recent, Basterds, is a master of the ensemble. He pieces his characters together with such thought, and just as much effort goes into finding the perfect cast. Django could very well have the perfect cast, if such a thing exists, with every player hitting every mark and every line of Tarantino dialogue with the utmost force. Even pairing certain actors together has a hand in how well the ensemble works here, Waltz and Foxx being an incredible buddy-cop team in this campy Old West. DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, as his right hand man, Stephen, play the most amazing charade of an aged couple, you'd think they've been married for years.

Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained

And while this amazing cast is doing is job splendidly, Tarantino's story moves ever forward, hitting major plot points when you least expect them and progressing to the tale's next stage sometimes at a whim. Once again, Tarantino likes to break rules, which leads to jarring reactions while viewing the film but a greater understanding of how the storyteller's mind works upon reflection. The left turns come so casually that it would do the film a disservice by examining any of them here, but know that Tarantino, always famous for his truly unique style of story structure, keeps right on changing those rules in his latest film.

The scenery, however, is very new to a Tarantino film. His shot compositions are as interesting here as they've always been, but he's never shot landscapes like this before. Aided by Robert Richardson, his cinematographer on Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained has some truly amazing shots that clearly come out of a great Western. Tarantino and Richardson make the scenery cool, something not often achieved in Westerns, especially the great, Hollywood Westerns of old. Once the image of Foxx riding a horse bareback at top speed, rifle held at the barrel in one hand, the coolness meter goes off the chart, and even Tarantino finds a way of topping his own earlier work. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is probably this film's only rival in being Tarantino's coolest in terms of its visual excitement.

Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained

As is the usual, Tarantino also pieces together a stellar soundtrack (get it on iTunes) full of anachronistic choices for this period piece. When 2Pac starts wailing, like all of Tarantino's other broken rules, it takes you out for a moment. You quickly find your way back on board and realizing just how damned cool it really is. Naturally, legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone makes an appearance, but other selections like John Legend's "Who Did That To You?" and Jim Croce's "I Got a Name" are inspired. Rick Ross' "100 Black Coffins," an original song written for the film, is the soundtrack's crowing achievement, though.

Django Unchained, with all of its unexpected swerves and changes in course, ends up losing steam before its final act begins. The director is famous for his long run-times, and at 165 minutes this film could've dropped some fat here and there. However, even then, when the film's climactic moments are playing out, though it's not as exciting as the two hours that came before, it's still Tarantino doing what Tarantino does best.

There's an argument that could be made that the director rests on his style too often, utilizes self indulgent dialogue and off-the-chart violence over and over because that's what he's known for. Though there isn't much of an argument against that viewpoint, it should still be said that Tarantino just being himself is 10 times as exciting and, yes, as cool as most other filmmakers working today. Tarantino has a voice, he has a vision, and Django Unchained is, for all of its entertainment value, a Quentin Tarantino Western in the fullest sense. You asked for. You got it. Now enjoy it.

Jeremy's Rating: 9 out of 10

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Sounds like a winner. Will be seeing it as soon as possible. Spike Lee can suck it!

Xerxexx on Dec 25, 2012

2 tarantino ,Spike lee is my man

dany on Dec 25, 2012


Enjoy him then.

Xerxexx on Dec 25, 2012


I'll be watching django either ; )

dany on Dec 25, 2012


will be or won't be?

Xerxexx on Dec 25, 2012


I will watching it, in order to make my opinion

dany on Dec 25, 2012


Good deal.

Xerxexx on Dec 25, 2012


Spike Lee is ass. I'm actually surprised he dose not want to see this film due to his biased views on white people.

Ben Moore on Dec 25, 2012


Not that into the Rick Ross tune, dude looks too fat to rap, though saying that Action Bronson manages not too badly. Maybe I need another listen. Can't wait for the movie. Was wondering if you guys were going to cover the holding back of the films release?

Carpola on Dec 25, 2012



Jacob Denton on Dec 25, 2012


Why do peeps have to 'diss on person A to worship person B? "F*ck A, I like B". Why can't a person just say, "I like B". Oh yeah, WATB. Secondly, I thought this wasn't a 'western'. I thought this was a 'southern'. This isn't about cowboys and indians; it's about slaves/slavers.

neckochat on Dec 25, 2012


Oh yeah...I ain't trying to flame no one. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

neckochat on Dec 25, 2012


This movie is bomb. Loved it. Absolutely fun and mind blowing.

Tyler Bannock on Dec 25, 2012


loved it. quentin puts together great films time and time again. i admit the running time is a bit long, but i was satisfied with the conclusion.

lshannel on Dec 25, 2012


this quicky became my second favorite tarantino film right below reservoir dogs. and it wasnt a western it was a southern really. they stayed south/southest/east almost the whole movie. it was good to see a new spin on this type of era movie tho. i would love to see a sequel and see what becomes of django but only if its done right. and as for spike lee he is the shit too, summer of sam is and will always be in my top 10 favorite movies.

UGLI on Dec 26, 2012


I was a bit disappointed by the film. I read the original script about a year ago and was really looking forward to it. I was sad to see so many of the crucial scenes that establish the dynamic between Django and Broomhilda, and Candie and Broomhilda to be missing. Candie's scene where he is introduced was the best one because it truly revealed his manipulating character that is so essential to the game that Django and Schultz try to play on him. Also, there were much more scenes showing the torture that Broomhilda endures via various slave masters hands, making us desperate to see Django succeeded. The film itself, is edited in a very awkward way that results in some sloppy pacing, unnecessary scenes (what was the point of the scene with Nero? it served no purpose other than to tickle cinephines), and scenes that lack dramatic tension (the early scenes between schultz and django feel dead). The scenes that are meant to be despicable in nature are ruined by comedic details (the scene with the dog: the serious tone is ruined by Quentin's slow mo of the 5 goofy country bumpkins running away from the black slave) I'll give it a B for now, but I plan to see it again in a few days. My overall impression is that QT got scared to deliver his original vision, and gave us a very PG look at slavery.

VVS on Dec 26, 2012


This movie was all about fun. I've never had a near 3 hour movie feel so short. I was excited the whole time. My only complaint is that the tone felt weird and that they were having too much fun with slavery...but at the same time that tone displayed how stupid people were in that setting and era.

RickyDipster on Dec 26, 2012


How come you forgot to mention that Jamie Foxx is also an Oscar winner? For Best Actor on top of that! You remember Waltz Oscar but not Foxx's? How selective of you! Anyway, it has to be good. 15M USD in a day, Christmas.

Remember the Oscar winner on Dec 26, 2012


when do I get to see it in India

nicky481 on Dec 26, 2012


Great film. As far as Tarantino's style of film making goes, this pretty much shows how his story telling has matured. We need this kind of cinema. Thanks QT for another excellent film!!

Roscoe N. White on Dec 27, 2012


Great movie !! this Tarantino is movie is AWESOME !!! it remind me Catcher Freeman from boondocks

tony on Dec 27, 2012


I found the movie to be an R rated blazing saddles with blood and guts and a very cheesy ending. Nothing to do with slavery because nobody cared enough to even talk to the slaves none let them make that much difference in there lives. Made a mistake and saw Lincoln first.

catxean on Dec 30, 2012


Completely agree with this review. Thought it was way worse than Basterds, but still so awesome. Tarantino is the master of style, even when he stretches it out way too long. Here's my full review, up on my film site WatchMeWatch:

PJ Van Galen on Dec 31, 2012

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