Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) – The Exceptional Return of the Western Genre

Tarantino Marathon Part VIII of IX, 4th Viewing 

WARNING: Some Spoilers Ahead 


Django Unchained was indeed the first Quentin Tarantino movie I ever watched. I was a preteen/teen lad who was just at the inception of my exploration of R-rated cinema. Despite the special place that this film has inside of my heart because of what it exposed me to in the world of gruesomely violent moviemaking, it’s, unfortunately, indisputable that after each subsequent viewing of this movie my respect for it decreases. Upon this rewatch especially, it has become clear as day that this is not near one of Tarantino’s brightest or slickest motion pictures in his filmography.

HOWEVER, with that being said, this instance shouldn’t take away from the sheer fact that this is an EXCELLENT movie. Tarantino replaces his intensely intricate complexity that he showcased in Inglourious Basterds to invent a simpler, more mind-numbing “friendship and rescue” story that splices light commentary on the horrible atrocities of America’s past. Not only that, but the director squeezes legendary performances out of Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel Jackson. And, let’s not forget about the gore. Yes, oh yes; the action spectacles are delectable in Django Unchained!

Tarantino uses a shockingly effective union of comedic levities and disturbing realities to show how ignorant white people at the time truly did find themselves civilized and fair when dealing with racial affairs, yet in hindsight, every time they thought they were being ethical amongst this topic, they just contradicted themselves. Like when Big Daddy tells one of his slaves to treat Django (who is a free man) as an unknown but presumably unpleasant white man named, Jerry, rather than any other white person, the true nature of equality and what it really meant to be a “free black man” at the time shows audibly. As elementary as commentary like this may admittedly be, it’s pleasant that in the midst of a movie meant to be taken for mostly fun, the film isn’t declined to get unnerving at times—take also the slave fight sequence which is excruciatingly painful to sit through. 

For the most part, the internal voyage that the main characters go on I particularly took a liking in, specifically with Dr. King Schultz. From the part where we enter Candyland, when Django starts antagonizing Calvin Candie’s men and the slaves to emphasize his towering image, Schultz lectures Django that he cannot lose sight of their aim goal, but once Schultz witnesses the true ugliness of Calvin Candie, he ends with wanting nothing better than to see Candie’s empire fall. He jeopardizes the entire mission out of self-interest, which was the exact thing he feared out of Django. Yet, imagine being able to shake the hand of a sicko like Candie; I don’t blame Schultz for not doing it! 

I believe highly that the dinner scene in Django Unchained features some of cinema’s finest acting moments. This sequence used to inspire me to write so many silly, dialogue-raging scripts that I would occasionally share with my friends and peers in high school. It’s twenty-two minutes of unadulterated Tarantino-infused lunacy! Not only does DiCaprio showcase possibly his all-time greatest snippet of acting capability through the reckless actions of his foul persona, but Samuel Jackson, Kerry Washington, Christoph Waltz, and Jamie Foxx play out the partially improvised moment so jaw-droppingly well. The unbelievably racist skull demonstration that Candie delivers is one of the most impeccable manners to certify to the audience that your villain is a full-blooded VILLAIN. Of course, it may not come near the genius of Inglourious Basterds’ opening with Hans Landa’s also racist analogy or even the charades game with minor antagonist Major Hellstrom, but it damn well is Tarantino’s third-best sequence that’s utilized to intensify an adversary, if we’re counting. Plus, knowing that DiCaprio legitimately cut his hand pretty horridly during this shoot certainly doesn’t make the scene any less impressive. 

And yeah, the shootout; need I say more about all the wonderful words that have already been spoken when it comes to Django’s legendary rampage? 

There is a massive dilemma that occurs after the infamous shootout however that I find unavoidable to oversee. Considering Django had just killed 17 armed men single-handedly with a couple of pistols, you’d think the folks of Candyland would’ve taken it upon themselves to execute Django while they had the chance, but nope; they find it more punishable to send him off, back into slavery again—need I remind you, sell the man who had just proven capable of murdering 17 armed men—at the hands of only THREE clueless middle/elderly-aged men to guard him as he’s shipped across to an Australian mining company. Not only is it one of the most foolish and outright preposterous decisions made by characters in movie history, but it’s also quite possibly one of Tarantino’s weakest moments of writing that acts out as a witless MacGuffin to keep the main character alive and send him into a well-deserved happy ending. I reckon Mr. Tarantino could’ve devised a much more practical or shrewd route to pave our lead, Django into victory. 

I’ve spotted out a couple of other glaring factors that additionally keep me from perceiving Django Unchained as one of Tarantino’s best as many have labeled it. There is an odd handful of irking plot holes in this feature-length for such a widely acclaimed Tarantino movie. The passage of time is handled quite choppily too, as well as a dozen of the continuity and music editing decisions. And, I can’t contain myself from mentioning how hideous the over-saturation of the flashback sequences are, not to mention some of the general lighting choices in the remainder of the film’s shots. 

But, hey, beyond that, this is an exceptional return to form for the western genre! Yet, let’s be real though; the around hour-long section of the movie where Leonardo DiCaprio’s infuriating villain is present are some of the greatest minutes in Tarantino history. Every other minute though: still pretty adequate! 

Plus, who doesn’t love the blood effects in Django Unchained? Tarantino took the definition of “splatter” to a whole new level! On top of that, making gunshots sound like incoming torpedoes… Now, that there, ladies and gents, is a fine ordeal. 

Verdict Change: A- —> B+ 

Quentin Tarantino Ranked

“Django Unchained” is now available to stream on YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Vudu, iTunes, and Netflix. 

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