Review: Django Unchained

When I went into Django Unchained, I knew it was a Quentin Tarantino film and a relatively controversial one at that (and for him, that’s saying something). Coming out of it, now I know one more: that was one heck of a movie.

Long story short, there are a lot of things to like about Django Unchained. It’s an uncomfortable look at one of the darkest aspects of US history, and it never shies away from that fact. You have to face the gruesome reality of one group seeing another as not even human–particularly as demonstrated by Calvin Candie’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) love of phrenology (measuring the human skull).

But it’s not just Candie with a particularly dark streak. There’s also the particularly violent sort of justice enacted by the eponymous character against all manner of criminals during his stint as a body hunter. Believe what you may about their guilt, after a single brief scene where he shows some doubt about what he’s about to do, he seems to have no problem gunning down any number of men. This is only compounded in the last fifteen or so minutes of the film where in true Tarantinoian fashion a whole mess of people get a whole lot messier–many guilty only by association.

Taken together, it’s a series of excellent performances all around. Jamie Foxx is excellent as Django, Christoph Waltz does a fine job as the German former dentist/bounty hunter (not a combination I thought I’d ever write), and DiCaprio plays a truly despicable villain–although he’s upstaged in just about ever scene he’s in by Samuel L. Jackson’s Stephen the house slave. Eesh, he made my skin crawl.

Overall, if you like Tarantino’s films, go see this one. But who am I kidding? You probably already have. If you have a problem with over-the-top violence and the n-work being used about a hundred times, this probably isn’t the film for you. Otherwise, it’s got a powerful message well worth listening to. After all “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it” (Edmond Burke).

Since this is the first movie I’ve seen in 2013, of course it takes the top spot. I have a feeling it will hold up well though.