As the holidays come to a close, I bring you the most heart-warming film of the holiday season.
Obviously, there is plenty of sarcasm to that statement, but also, this is a story about a man looking to reunite with his true love. The man I speak of is Django, (Jamie Foxx) a slave who has been separated from his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).
German dentist-turned bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) finds Django deep in Texas and recruits him to help hunt down the Brittle Brothers. As Django has seen the Brittle Brothers and Dr. Schultz hasn't, Django proves to be useful. In return for Django's help, Dr. Schultz offers to train Django to be a bounty hunter, make him a free man and ultimately, help Django reunite with his wife.
After dispatching of the Brittle Brothers, Dr. Schultz makes good on his word. Dr. Schultz and Django are able to locate the whereabouts of Broomhilda. It is revealed that Broomhilda is owned by Calvin Candie, (Leonardo DiCaprio) a sadistic plantation owner who specializes in mandingo fighting at his plantation: Candie Land. Dr. Schultz and Django pose as men looking to buy a mandingo fighter from Calvin and hope to have Broomhilda thrown into the deal as well. The plan seems to sit well with everyone except for Calvin's house slave, Stephen, (Samuel L. Jackson) who does not trust Dr. Schultz or Django and might be one step ahead of our titular heroes.
Now, a lot of controversy has surrounded this movie regarding the use of the word "nigger". I wholeheartedly hate racism, and truly do not believe someone should be oppressed just due to their skin color. As Quentin Tarantino has set this movie in 1858/9, there are obvious reasons to believe that black men and woman would be referred to by this word. The word itself is not thrown out gratuitously and not there as shock value for the audience. The characters who utter this word use it as their normal speech. This is obviously not America's proudest moment in history, but it still is a chapter in the American history books.
Getting passed the elephant in the room, this is one of Quentin Tarantino's best movies. The film is filled with humor that (most of the time) hits the area it was aiming for. When not laughing, the violence in this film might turn some people away. Myself, I was actually glad to see blood squibs used instead of gaudy CGI blood (I'm looking at you The Departed and Expendables franchise). Granted some might think that the blood flow in this film may be excessive, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing actual blood fly. Maybe it was the fact it seemed like Paul Verhooven circa 1990 had filmed the more violent scenes? I don't know, but I enjoyed it immensely.
Two performances really stand out in this film. First, Christoph Waltz's Dr. King Schultz is a nice guy and a man of his word. In essence, Dr. Schultz is the nice guy version of Colonel Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds. He's charming when he needs to be and cold-blooded when the situation calls for it. Even more impressive, though, is Samuel L. Jackson's Stephen. What initially starts out as spoof of this type of role, turns much more complex. Stephen really is smarter than Calvin Candie and knows it. He has worked so long at Candie Land, that he is faithful to Calvin and would do anything to protect Calvin's interests and the interests of Candie Land.
The major issue I had with this film, and the only reason it is not my favorite film of the year comes from the editing, mostly regarding the ending. Django Unchained is a leisurely-paced film and moves from one scene to the next when it feels like it. The results of this leaves a lot of fat on the film. Most of the unnecessary scenes are entertaining and don't drag the film down much, but the scene involving Jonah Hill stood out as the first scene that should have been cut. This is an overly-long scene that doesn't add anything to the film (especially how it is placed into the middle of an action scene) and is there only for humorous reasons.
Besides that scene, the last 15-20 minutes of this movie finds Quentin Tarantino's script wandering aimlessly in search for an ending. Django is placed into an almost impossible situation to escape from. Once that is resolved, we are treated to Django being put into a situation that hasn't been mentioned before with a bunch of characters we haven't met (including an awful cameo by QT himself). Django then needs to get out of this situation and wrap up the remaining story threads. I am not sure how Quentin could have ended the movie, but I really wish he chose a different way then what he went with.
Overall, this is one of the year's best and shouldn't be missed just because of the controversy. See the movie and judge for yourself.