As a lover of film in general and Quentin Tarentino specifically, I did not expect to have the reaction I did to his most recent film Django Unchained. I did enjoy the film, but my opinion has taken a bit more time to develop. I liked it quite a bit, and maybe someday I’ll love it, but I find that the unabashed adoration I usually feel towards Tarentino’s work to be hesitating slightly for this film, where it has not for others. I know this is quite vague, and may seem like I am only pretending to like the film, but readers will have to trust me at least a little on that front.
The film is fast, violent, hilarious and acted with an enthusiasm rarely seen in Hollywood, however Tarentino for once in his career seems to struggle with exactly what tone this movie is going for.
For those of you readers who have no idea what I’m talking about, Django Unchained, which strangely premiered on Christmas day, is the newest film from writer/director Quentin Tarentino. It stars Jamie Foxx as the titular Django, a slave recently freed by German dentist and bounty hunter Dr. King Shultz, played with expected excellence by Christoph Waltz. The two join forces in the bounty hunting business, and eventually end up attempting to rescue Django’s wife Broomhilda, played by Kerry Washington, who is currently owned by Leonardo Dicaprio’s nefarious plantation owner Calvin Candie.
The film, at 165 minutes, isn’t small by any measure, and uses that length to genre-hop in a very entertaining and effective fashion, but can be equally confusing in its implications. One moment, the horrors of slavery are being rubbed in the audience’s face.
The next scene is played for physical comedy, while the next is a grand and ridiculous shootout serving as a reminder of Tarentino’s passion for exploitation cinema. All of these pieces work very well, the bag scene in particular would have been right at home in Blazing Saddles, but jumping between them the viewer cannot help but feel a little odd about what they are supposed to feel. I am not taking the Spike Lee track here, because I neither think of Quentin Tarentino as a racist nor do I think his handling of the subject matter to be disrespectful.
I think that Tarentino’s fault here, if any, is his brazenness and willingness to go places other filmmakers wouldn’t dare. This could be read as hyperbolic praise, I assure you it is anything but. With Django Unchained, Quentin Tarentino has made a fun, witty, and wildly entertaining film about slavery.
I liked this film quite a bit, but that being said, after walking out of the theater I wasn’t entirely sure that I should.