Django Unchained is a Spaghetti Western Feast
The year is 1858. We are at the brink of the American Civil War and the peak of slavery in the southern United States. It’s a perfect backdrop for another dose of Quentin Tarantino.
Tarantino is back to embracing his beloved Spaghetti Western style of filmmaking, which his fans saw so vividly depicted in Kill Bill: Vol. 2.
The film opens with a great bit of dialogue reminiscent to the tense and unsettling opening of Inglourious Basterds, that quickly establishes the two main characters and the link that binds them.
Christoph Waltz plays Dr. King Schultz, and Tarantino fans will remember Waltz for his portrayal of sadistic Nazi Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. Here, he’s the German-born dentist, with a comical tooth wobbling on top of his coach, and he’s searching for a black slave named Django.
Schultz’s conversation with Django’s owner unfolds as he announces his intention of buying the slave. The conversation, in true Tarantino style, does not go smoothly, but of course Schultz gets the man he came for. He and Django set out together.
Without his characteristic strong openings, Tarantino’s films would be a lot less memorable, but they are always essential sequences that perfectly set the tone of his films.
After freeing Django, Schultz reveals to his new companion that he is a bounty hunter; he needs Django to identify some criminals he is looking for. Despite the man’s erratic behavior, Django agrees to work with him, in order to seek revenge on these men, who had that tortured his wife in a very Kill Bill -esque flashback.
Django is the classic silent and intriguing Spaghetti Western anti-hero with a dark past. After the usual shooting training sequence, it is agreed that he has become the west’s fastest shooter.
After accomplishing their task, the newly free Django wants to find his wife, who’s supposed to be at a cotton plantation in Mississippi. Schultz agrees to accompany him—but only if Django helps him on a couple of bounties first.
When the partners arrive at the plantation, they discover that Django’s wife is the property of Calvin Candie, a francophile and sadistic businessman, in a strong performance by Leonardo DiCaprio.
The very graphic nature of the violence portrayed in Django Unchained might be unsettling for some viewers, even those accustomed to Tarantino’s style, but it almost always serves an aesthetic or dramatic purpose. Except for the third act.
Sadly, the film’s final moments are wasted in an incoherent slaughter that may leave viewers scratching their heads at the film’s unsatisfying conclusion.
However, in pure Tarantino fashion, this pleasure of a movie pushes us in another one of the director’s twisted revisionist fantasies—with comedic undertones. His love for Westerns comes across clearly in a whole host of references to Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci’s work.
A must-see this holiday season for anyone who is willing to have some Confederate blood with their popcorn.