A slave gets his chance for freedom in Django Unchained, a revenge story served western style. Quentin Tarantino infuses his newest film with parts blaxploitation, political satire, and social commentary, weaving an intricate plot into something educational for the movie-going masses. Those familiar with the Dave Chappelle Show and its brand of comedy will find themselves overwhelmed by Django Unchained’s wheeling and dealing as it plays with the notions of race, prejudice, social norms, and hypocrisy. It’s a blend of entertainment and juxtaposition as characters verbally and physically spar over lofty ideals like human rights and love.
Jamie Foxx stars as Django, a runaway slave caught and separated from his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Chained and forced to trudge along with other slaves, Django is found by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a dentist turned bounty hunter, who takes Django under his wing and proposes a partnership. For Django, it’s an opportunity not only to find employment but also to gain the means of finding his wife who has been sold to a notorious plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). The bounty hunting pair devise a plan and take false identities to gain Candie’s confidence in order to infiltrate his home and buy back Django’s wife.
Tarantino is a master of dialogue, and his writing skills are as sharp as ever. Satirical and sharp in its delivery, Django Unchained goes right to the heart of the matter in dealing with slavery in American terms — economically, socially, and racially. The nuances of Tarantino’s storytelling incorporates subtle narratives with harsh violence to punctuate a black eye on American history while keeping the topic relevant to modern day issues on racism. Foxx plays a subdued Django keeping his inner boiling rage at check. Waltz, just as he did in Inglorious Basterds, takes command of every scene he’s in, delivering lines with deft execution. If it weren’t for DiCaprio’s fiery and blustery Candie, who comes close to matching Waltz’s gravitas, Django Unchained would have teetered dangerously to one side, but the performance quality of its main stars elevates and balances the film giving Samuel L. Jackson room to play the film’s second villain, the wily and conniving Stephen. Though the movie loses a lot of steam as it approaches its final act, it still finishes with traction. And while the media still figures out what to do about the movie’s language and use of the N-word, Django Unchained never feels gratuitous or preachy, proving there’s s a deliberate method to Tarantino’s madness. Or is it genius?