Django Unchained

Set in 1858, two years before the US Civil War, the story deals with the brutal treatment of slaves in the American Deep South, much the same way that Inglourious Basterds (2009), dealt with the treatment of Jews in Nazi occupied France. In this alternate Tarantino universe every white person working or living on cotton plantations is tainted by the legacy of slavery and can therefore justifiably be disposed of as part of the evil oppression gripping this part of the nation. 

Be prepared for another bloody splatter fest from Quentin Tarantino. In his love for violent revenge fantasies, Tarantino unleashes more than his usual amount of blood and dynamite with over-the-top explosions and buckets of blood every time someone gets shot. The movie is mesmerizing with its detailed account of two fictional characters struggling through a not so fictional ugly period in American history.

Using the Spaghetti Western style, we follow a recently purchased slave, Django, as he encounters and becomes the protégé of a fast talking German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz.  Similar to the way that Tarantino starts his movies with his signature shoot first and ask questions later graphic killing scene followed by a long explanation or flashback of what had occurred before to justify this violent action, bounty hunter Schultz also shoots first and explains his actions in detail after the dust settles. 

Posing as a dentist, Dr. Schultz requires the help of a slave to identify a gang of brothers he is hunting for the bounty on their heads. Django, who comes from the plantation they work on, agrees to help Dr. Schultz, who abhors slavery and offers to give him his freedom if he cooperates. Django naturally becomes a little over zealous with his new position as a defender and avenger of slaves as he hones his skill with a gun and is quick to dispatch the cruel white men who we learn have tortured him and his wife on the plantation. 

It’s a long movie but you hardly notice the time go by as the epic story unfolds with plenty of suspense, humor and action. Like most of Tarantino’s films there are long tense sequences of people talking with punchy and sometimes hilarious dialogue detailing the fascinating but horrific aspects of life in the American Deep South and always making sure that the characters are behaving logically, given their situation, punctuated by sudden explosive scenes of graphic bloodletting. 

Learning that Django has a wife that he was separated from at a slave auction, Dr. Schultz offers to help him find her if he assists in collecting the rest of his bounties. Django agrees since it would be almost impossible for him to find and rescue his wife alone.  When our avenging duo finally discovers the whereabouts of Django’s wife, they put their daring plan into action. But when they get there, they realize that rescuing Django’s house slave wife from the clutches of a ruthless plantation owner with a sadistic bent, is not going to be easy. 

Audiences either love or loath Tarantino’s films but whatever your feelings about this exceptional film maker, he does have a special talent for writing suspenseful movie scripts with gripping storylines and extremely motivated characters. He has an undeniable knowledge and passion for films and film lore, having worked as a video store clerk for much of his youth. And his visual style and talent for finding the perfect actors to play the demanding roles in his stories has made him a legend among cinephiles who appreciate the many film references in his movies. 

It’s not surprising that one of Tarantino’s favorite films last year was Rise of the Planet of theApes (2011), which was also a revenge fantasy about caged zoo apes turning on their human oppressors. It will be interesting to see which downtrodden, maltreated, discriminated group will get their payback in Tarantino’s next film. 



Shiran said...

I saw this move and it was a doozie. A visual romp. Somehow the graphic violence was not off putting but poetic. It had a nice rhythm and cadence to it. Tarantino has surely and firmly laid out his style.

Susan Cooper said...

This does sounds intriguing. I may not enjoy the violence but then again if the story is well done it makes it tolerable.

Crystal Spraggins said...

Dear John:
I saw the movie and agree with your comments about Tarantino and his talents. My review (which looks at the movie more subjectively) is posted at

By the way, the blog looks great!

JP said...

Hi Crystal.
Thanks for your comment. It doesn't sound like you enjoyed the movie. You're right, there were some very disturbing scenes but given the time and place this story occurred the violence was probably justified.

Maybe you were hoping for more of a love story but I think this was more of a revenge tale.

Happy New Year!

Dan O. said...

Good review. Say what you will about Tarantino, the dude sure knows how to build tension. The dinner scene had me on the edge of my seat.6