Django Unchained (2012) is Quentin Tarantino’s seventh film in his filmography, and perhaps his most serious one of them all. This film stars Jamie Foxx in the titular role, Django, as he is a free man and going across states as a bounty hunter to rescue his wife from a plantation at Candy Land. This film also has a huge cast list, including Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson, with Waltz and Jackson being heavily linked with Tarantino’s works.
The narrative here is the strongest I have seen Tarantino do, from start to end. Not only did the 165 minute runtime feel earned here, but I also felt it was necessary to tell the entire story. Every moment of this film felt important, from the meetings to the shootings. This is also the most important story I have seen Tarantino tell, and I can appreciate exactly what he is saying here. It does make this film one of the least re-watchable in his filmography, but it is also one of his most important to watch.
The acting here, as you can expect from the line-up, is top notch. Samuel L. Jackson surprisingly gives a different sort of performance here, which is slightly more subdued than usual. I know it was in a competitive year for the Oscars, but how Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t even get a nomination for their outstanding performances is beyond me. The one person that did win for their performance here was Christoph Waltz, who proves he’s not just a good bad guy in Inglourious Basterds, but can provide so many layers here.
The character development in this film is excellent, particularly when it came to Django. I loved the smaller moments of the film, where we get to see him learning to read, as it added a sense of realism to the story. All the moments between him and his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), were so beautifully executed as well in terms of subtlety and story-telling.
This film, despite how serious it is, still has those moments that go right back to the Tarantino style, particularly when it came to the action. The violence here is the hardest I have seen throughout the film, but that is because of the brutality of the situation. The gun fights are just as they usually are, bloody and well done to look real and feel the risk of the situation.
This is a film that, like 12 Years a Slave for me, is so well made but so difficult to watch. They both have a similar theme to their story, in terms of slavery and the brutality of the situation back in the 1800s as someone is trying to be freed. There are scenes, such as the whipping sequences and the black men fighting to the death, that are incredibly uncomfortable and hard to watch. This just shows how well made it is to execute those feelings out of me. Even when I know it’s a piece of fiction, I just think of the people that really struggled through it.
If there is something negative about the film, it was that I didn’t find a good balance between the drama and the humour of the film. They felt very separated, and that is a problem when a film like this is made. The lighter aspects feel out of place here, just because they don’t fit well. However, I felt it was also necessary to add those moments or the audience would have been left either bored or constantly in shock and upset by what they were watching. There is a thin line with this film in terms of tone, and I don’t know if it fully hit it.
Whilst I will not be running back to watching this film again, due to the heavy subject matter, this is Tarantino’s strongest film in terms of story, narrative flow and execution. Whilst I could have used a slightly better tone between drama and humour, this never dragged on and the film earned it’s runtime. This may just be the most important film that Tarantino has made, so if you are okay with the subject matter, you must give this one a watch. I could even see non-Tarantino fans appreciating this one.
Have you seen Django Unchained yet? Is it a film that you can appreciate like me, or was the subject matter too much for you? Let me know in the comments below, and let’s have a discussion.