Directed by Quentin Tarantino
At the risk of sounding like an incompetent hack, I’ll say that Django Unchained may well be Tarantino’s greatest film. I can see why one would prefer that performance, that dialogue or that soundtrack, but as an overall, all-round experience, this is pretty much the man’s peak as a filmmaker. A stylized, delicious western made with all the swagger and bloodshot lushness you would expect from Tarantino.
Still, the most blinding factor here is by far the amazing acting, in particular from Christoph Waltz (who is no less exceptional than he was in Inglourious Basterds), Samuel L. Jackson (every bit as loyal, sinister and defiant as you would expect his Uncle Tom-like character to be) and Leonardo DiCaprio (who is absolutely sensational as a despotic, quick-tempered landlord). These three are so viciously good that the perfectly competent, serviceable performance from Jamie Foxx as a liberated slave looks somewhat underwhelming. To say nothing of the typically hammy appearance from Tarantino himself – don’t despair, though, it’s way too brief to spoil all the fun.
The plot is your standard western fare, of course, with a quest for a lost love in the midst of all the shootouts and explosions. So – no, don’t think too much about them silly love quests (even though I did appreciate that line): all the goodness in this film is only a handy excuse for Tarantino to yet again show himself as a badass motherfucker who’s ready to keep lashing out that ‘nigger’ word at you with impressive insistence. Joking there, of course, but all the same: it’s first and foremost a classic Tarantino film. You won’t mistake it for anything else.
Really, for all its great look and irresistible epic feel, you do care about the story. In fact, I would not hesitate giving Django Unchained the best original screenplay Oscar. It’s gripping and it’s smart. Plus, tons of great music; you know he is good at soundtracks. The rapping stuff was unnecessary, but Jim Croce’s classic “I Got A Name” (used brilliantly here) and John Legend’s “Who Did That To You?” (written specifically for the movie) are too good.
Unlike some people, I didn’t see Django Unchained as Tarantino’s going political. Not at all. I appreciate his gutsiness and his straightforward take on a delicate subject (see Lincoln for a classy, bland angle on that one), but for me this was just great, mad art. Quentin Tarantino having good clean (clean? no, of course not) fun.