Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 2012. The Weinstein Company, Columbia Pictures. Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino. Cinematography by Robert Richardson. Produced by Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher. Production Design by J. Michael Riva. Costume Design by Sharen Davis. Film Editing by Fred Raskin. Academy Awards 2012. American Film Institute 2012. Golden Globe Awards 2012. Washington Film Critics Awards 2012.
In mid-nineteenth century America, with the institution of slavery still the strong backbone of the economy in the South, bounty hunter Christoph Waltz frees Jamie Foxx and takes him along with him on his cross-country adventures. Initially the two are united because Foxx knows three of Waltz’s targets by sight and can help catch them, but once the two find themselves enjoying each other’s company, Waltz makes Foxx’s personal goal his own: to travel to the plantation of a rich kingpin (Leonardo DiCaprio) and free his enslaved wife (Kerry Washington). They get themselves into some pretty hairy trouble, including a terrific segment with Don Johnson as a tobacco plantation owner, before finally making their way to the big house and risking their very lives. Quentin Tarantino follows up the flipping-the-bird-to-history approach that delighted audiences of Inglourious Basterds by once again having fun with the past: the gory details of American racism are not spared, and Tarantino’s method of dealing with them, by having Foxx turn into a folk hero, is a wonderful rebellion, with a plot that is not as haphazardly stitched together as Basterds was. Django is a rich and perfectly smooth combination of spaghetti western traditions, blaxploitation and action adventure, with a villain worthy of James Bond (even if DiCaprio’s portrayal of him is the film’s weakest element) and some rich side characters including an unforgettable Samuel L. Jackson as a high-ranking house slave with a very complex personality. The star of the picture, however, is Waltz, whose confident smooth-talker is a pleasure to behold from the exciting opening sequence, and whose presence is never less than riveting. Some viewers will be taken aback by the rough N-word bombs that frequent the dialogue, but a film that feels so much more honest than The Help about the subject of racial oppression, hilarious given how much fantasy is being indulged in here, is doing its job if it stings while it entertains. If anything, the film’s ridiculously excessive violence, particularly in the closing scenes, acts as a decongestant for the bottled-up rage that the narrative builds up so very well.