Friday, December 28, 2012

The D is Silent

#moviereview #DjangoUnchained
But that is the only thing that is silent in Quentin Tarantino's film Django Unchained.  The titular Django, played by Jaime Foxx, is a slave who is acquired by a German-born  bounty hunter King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who needs Django to assist him on a bounty hunting mission.  Aside from bounty hunting with Schultz, Django's main focus is to free his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from wily plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).  With that set-up, the movie is a full-on, bloody, western-style revenge fantasy and rescue-the-fair-maiden story.  But, instead of being set in the Wild Wild West, it's set in the pre-Civil War South.  And, instead of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, a black man saves the day. 

Every Tarantino film is violent and this one is no different.  Because of his penchant for violent tales, I believe Tarantino was less timid than most filmmakers would be in portraying some of the more brutal aspects of slavery like when BroomHilda is branded with a hot iron and when Candie forces male slaves to fight to the death for entertainment ("Mandingo fighting").  The film is no great revelation about the institution of slavery and it's certainly no historical drama. And Tarantino tempers much of the violence with humor such as a scene in which a befuddled group of white vigilantes complain about not being able to see through the holes of the white bags over their heads.  And I can't even begin to decipher all the B-movie and pop-culture references Tarantino planted in the story. [Did Tarantino intentionally make Samuel L. Jackson's character--duplicitous house negro Stephen--look like Uncle Ruckus from The Boondocks]?  But, undoubtedly, I wanted Django to exact his revenge and ride into the night with his wife.  And neither Tarantino nor Foxx disappoint on that score.  [I'm already ready for the sequel.  Jamie, you're a bad m...!]

The most thought-provoking part of the film for me was when Candie states how he doesn't understand why the slaves he has lived with all his life didn't kill him or his family.  And I wonder if I had been born into slavery like my ancestors would I have been able to free myself.  There are at least 250 known rebellions by slaves in the United States and who knows how many countless other acts of resistance.  Django is a great fantasy adventure, but  I can't wait to see mainstream feature films on Nat Turner and Toussaint L'Ouveture, who are real-life Djangos.

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