When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.
5 Things You Need to Know About…
1. Django (pronounced Jango, the “D” is silent) Unchained is a well-paced 165 minutes that rarely drags its feet and is often galloping through scene after scene of memorable character interactions, interesting interpretations of southern hospitality, and beacoup de (admittedly Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie may not appreciate this use of French) blood bursting graphic killing. The plotted premise, dynamite script, cinematic homaging, and execution thereof of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino are of the highest form. If you are a Tarantino fan (of which generally I am not), you will love Django. If you are not a Tarantino fan, Django will shake, rattle, and roll your senses into becoming one over the course of this movie.
2. As is his cinematic want, Tarantino infuses Django with constant graphic (albeit at times artistic) violence (I spent at least a cumulative five minutes turning my head away) and relentless (and thereby, forced desensitized) use of the n-word. It is part of the tenor of the filmmaker and of the historical (1858-1859) Deep South slavery period that the movie depicts so acutely, but I would be disingenuous to say it didn’t color my cinematic experience just a little bit. This is tough subject matter and as explicit a telling as I have seen. Once you buy in, you are sold relatively quickly, but for some, the price may be too much to pay.
3. Christoph Waltz, as Dr. King Schultz, is a master of his craft and a joy to watch on screen. His scenes are memorably electric, uncomfortably yet satisfyingly violent (in both the traditional and Anne Bogart meaning), and articulated with a consistency and clarity that bring such joy to the viewer. It was a pleasure to spend much of the near three hours of Django with Mr. Waltz. In other successful casting news, both Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio so expertly play against what is expected and subsequently flourish. Mr. Foxx’s stoic yet powerful lead character is precise, deliberate, and nuanced without ever reaching for some of the over the top flamboyance (clothing appropriately excluded) that we often find in his performances. Django‘s Django is brilliant. As for Leo (in his first role in sixteen years that did not get top billing), he is almost unrecognizable in his portrayal of Southern plantation owner Calvin Candie. He delivers a character so reprehensible and villainous yet so playfully enjoyable in way that very few of his peers could. There may be no bigger movie star working in the industry today (box office receipts do not wholly support this) and it is privilege to see him explore his uninhabited and unchained range here. Samuel L. Jackson (box office receipts may support his biggest movie star crown), no stranger to the work of Quentin Tarantino, is once again a representative of what greatness is all about.
4. There is a scene in Django involving hoods (and a random appearance from Jonah Hill!) that may be the most clever, hilarious, satirically pleasing, and successfully comedic segment in my cinematic memory.
5. Django Unchained is a movie of grand imagination and excellent execution that is all fun and games until it is not anymore (some of the violence was a bit too violent and slavery is American history’s most horrendous legacy), but nevertheless manages to captivate, cajole, and charm its way through the muddy waters of the Deep South into a most memorable and enjoyable cinematic experience.
David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company. He writes weekly TV columns on Afterbuzztv.com (next up, Fox’s “The Following”) and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.