*Join me as I review all of the 2013 “Best Picture” Academy Award nominees*
You could call my passion for film and cinema a direct result of Quentin Tarantino. Pulp Fiction is the first movie I can remember that truly made an impact on me both mentally and emotionally. I was a young boy at the ripe old age of 8 but the movie spoke volumes – and you could say that I may have been too young to truly realize the greatness that is Tarantino’s greatest masterpiece – but Pulp Fiction has stayed with me for 18 years.
Tarantino’s latest triumph in film – Django Unchained – is just that, a triumph. The spaghetti western genre is pretty much dead, but that didn’t bother QT as he embarked on a tale of slave-turned-bounty-hunter in the grand state of Mississippi right before the civil war. It’s a bloody, gory mess of amazement that is incredibly told and wonderfully acted. Tarantino writes the fable of slave Django (Jamie Foxx) who is united with a German bounty hunter – Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz). The two quickly form a bond with Shultz making a pact with Django that if the once-slave helps him collect bounty’s across the west, Shultz will help Django get back his wife (Kerry Washington) who is a slave to a plantation owner in Mississippi, Calvin Candie (masterfully played by Leonardo DiCaprio).
While we’re engaged in Django and Shultz’s cross-country journey to collect different bounties, we’re constantly meeting fantastic characters along the way. From Big Daddy plantation owner (Don Johnson) to one of Candie’s henchmen – Billy Crash (Walton Goggins) – to freed slave Stephen (Sam L. Jackson), each character we meet leaves a lasting impact. And for as much of an impact the characters leave, there’s something to be said for how well Tarantino puts it all together. Just about all of QT’s films are told in individual parts that come together for a grand finale, but not Django Unchained. Django Unchained may be Quentin Tarantino’s most comprehensive, complete story we’ve seen from him.
Each character Tarantino writes for displays an emotional side we’re not used to seeing from his films. Django is on a revenge quest for the one he calls his true love; Shultz is the compassionate one but also has a killer’s look; Candie is the charismatic slave owner who has the devil inside of him. It’s that devil that really makes DiCaprio’s villain truly terrifying.
While the movie runs a bit long at nearly three hours and the film’s third act feels more like it’s final act, Tarantino provides enough stellar writing to get through it. The film’s two standouts – Waltz and DiCaprio – are so stellar that you almost forget about Django (almost) until it’s time for some badassery.
The film’s shootouts are fun and gory and over-the-top but they almost seem like filler until we get to the next scene between Django and Shultz or Shultz and Candie or Candie and Stephen. At the very least, the shootouts are a nice reprieve and Jamie Foxx isn’t bad with a six-shooter either.
Once the film is over you can look back at the relationships between Django/Shultz and Candie/Stephen and realize that the movie began with the dog wagging the tail but by the end it’s the tail wagging the dog. You’ll know what I mean.
All in all, this may be Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece and I sincerely hope this film has the same sort of impact on a young cinema-aficionado that Pulp Fiction had on me.