Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Produced by: Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher
Runtime: 165 minutes
Django is an African American slave who has been separated from his wife Broomhilda. One night, his owners, the Speck Brothers, were shot dead by Dr. King Schultz, a bounty hunter, freeing him and the others slaves chained with Django. Now, Dr. Schultz and Django make a deal: Django will help Schultz in finding the Brittle Brothers while Schultz, moved by the feeling of responsibility, will help Django look for his separated wife. As the pair arrived in Mississippi, Schultz discovers that Broomhilda is currently owned by Calvin Candie, the charismatic but sadistic owner of a plantation called Candyland.
Now, Schultz and Django plan the scheme to get Broomhilda from Candie: to involve her in an intriguing “ridiculous offer” in exchange for one of Candie’s fighter. Things does not go quite as planned when Stephen, Candie’s steadfastly loyal house slave, immediately express to Candie his concern that there is a very strong possibility that Django and Broomhilda know each other and the deal to be made with Schultz involving his fighter is just a mere front. This raises suspicion to Candie, and his agitation becomes the trigger to the ensuing scenes of violence involving the deal.
It is quite known to everyone that Quentin Tarantino is such a distinctive filmmaker and there is a certain high regard to his work. Equal to that is the pressure put to him in making a string of great films. His last outing, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, surely did not disappoint. In fact, I think it is the best of that year. This one pales a bit in comparison, but the end product nevertheless is rock-solid entertainment.
Tarantino is never afraid of playing around with the material that he has given because he fully knows it, given that he wrote it. His screenplay is again an intelligent one and able of simultaneously reconciling humor and violence at the same time. It is quite obvious that as a director and a screenwriter, he opts for the fearless than the flawless, not that he does not care if his films are flawless or not. But here is someone who has a voice and he is not afraid if it is all right with everyone.
Like what I said, he opts for the fearless than the flawless, and it is quite obvious during the last thirty minutes of the film where it slightly goes off track to actually wrap the narrative with a bang that is either too ridiculous to actually work or simply not as intelligent as the rest of the film. I for one think that there could have been a better ending, but here we are with that ending, and though very well-executed, it is not as well thought of as the rest of the film. It does not achieve the brilliance of the ending of Inglourious Basterds, but the ending itself is quite remarkable, bringing to us a shocking last image that has a staying power. And like the ending, the film has that power to stick with the audience, but I am sure that there could have been more chiseling off of the excesses.
The cinematography completely goes for the violence embedded throughout the film. The choice of dominating warm colors adds to the stealthy threat imbued by each scene. It is quite a brilliant work, actually. The editing also fares well, though like my own disappointment in comparison with Tarantino’s last work, there could have been more tightening done. Some scenes, I think, could have been composed in a much more menacing manner, but when we also have some really tense scenes here that quite surpass the tension of other films (the dinner scene before the stand-off is really a heart-throbbing moment), it should be acknowledged accordingly. The music complements to the air of ridicule strongly present in the film. Also, kudos to the production design and costume design that are simply worth mentioning.
As with any other Tarantino film, what we have here is a strong ensemble of actors giving life to the rapid-fire intellect of the screenplay.
Jamie Foxx does a fine work as the title character. He is fit for the role, and while I do not think that he actually did wonders in this role nor did I think that he is the most interesting thing in the film, the fact that I see that he feels comfortable with his role and that he does justice to the role is enough with me.
The other actors actually outshine the lead actor. The other lead actor, Christoph Waltz, is nothing short of amazing as Dr. King Schultz. I had my initial doubts with him before seeing the film, fearing that it would be Hans Landa all over again, but I eventually was proven wrong by that. The only similarity is the razor-sharp delivery of the lines that is totally due to Waltz; he has mastered how to handle difficult bunches of dialogue and deliver it as if they were that easy to say.
Leonardo DiCaprio had never been this terrifyingly larger-than-life as Calvin Candie. I have seen almost all of the important performances of his career (he is actually my favourite actor), and to see him reach this high level of intensity as the monstrously merciless antagonist is a real accomplishment that must be seen to be believed. Every line is spoken with a petrifying touch of peril that makes Calvin Candie a truly effective villain.
Kelly Washington and Samuel L. Jackson provide invaluable supporting work that can really attest to their acting skills, both giving performances that completes the brutal world of the film by showing the different dimensions of the violence present in the story.
As I reach my last paragraph, I must apologize for continuously comparing this film with Tarantino’s other works. I know a film must be judged according to its own merit, but because of the kind of filmmaker that Tarantino is, I am sorry but I cannot help but to compare. I repeat, the film pales a bit in comparison with Inglourious Basterds and it definitely does not belong to its company, but I think this might go with Pulp Fiction as a really strong Tarantino film that one can see. Now that is a good company.
For this, the film gets:
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