Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained  (2012), directed and written by Quentin Tarantino, starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson

Out of the two westerns, Tarantino has directed Django Unchained is definitely a better one. It's a well crafted unflinching b-movie, where seasoned movie stars ham it up deliberately, while Tarantino mixes anachronism with things that might be historic, but also mostly come from the style of pulp fiction he so dearly is infatuated of. In short, Django Unchained is Tarantino's portrayal of affection towards the Italian Spaghetti Western genre, from which he even has borrowed the name of Django.

The story begins when Dr King Shultz (Waltz) stops a group herding slaves, as he has a need for a specific slave, whose aid he needs. Shultz is a bounty hunter and the slave he needs has seen a couple of people he needs to kill and as luck has it, the salve in question is Django (Foxx). Some witty banter and a couple of bullets later, Django is free, riding alongside Shultz on his way to become not only a free man but a bounty hunter as well.

Shultz takes a liking to Django, teaching him all he knows. The two become partners and he promise that they'll find a way to free Django's wife as well from the yoke of slavery, as Shultz doesn't really like the practice. So after a winter filled with training and hunting, the duo heads to the slave market, from where they find a clue of Hildi (Washington), Django's wife.

Hildi is in the clutches of Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), a notorious slaveowner who is known to dabble in "Mandingo fights", a brutal bloodsport, where slaves are pitted against each other in a battle to the death. As Candie is a man whose interest is difficult to get, the two devise a plan of portraying themselves as a wealthy man interested in the sports and his black slaver colleague, helping in appraising the potential slaves.

While the story of Django Unchained isn't novel by any means, it is well written and holds up together well to the eventual bloody standoff between Django and the slavers. It's not necessarily a movie for those expecting a traditional western, as Tarantino doesn't really do traditional movies more than he does pastiches of things he loves. Like I said earlier, it is a b-movie, but very well crafted one and its almost 3-hours length doesn't feel at all too long like it does with Hateful Eight.

Django Unchained is not Tarantinos best movie, but it's also far from being his worst. It is a movie, that benefits from a good script and from actors, who know exactly what kind of a style is needed from them in order to make the movie work.

As far direction goes, Tarantino does it with a firm hand, clearly knowing exactly what he wanted from any scene, be it a brutal shootout or a comedic relief scene of KKK members discussing hoods. In many ways, it is a movie that feels effortless, but had undoubtedly a lot of effort put into it in order to make it look like that.

So, if you're interested in watching a modern b-Spaghetti western, Django Unchained is a good way to look. It is all around a solid movie and definitely better than Tarantino's own the Hateful Eight. I also think it's far better movie than Inglourious Basterds, the movie Tarantino spent a long time finetuning before finally turning it into a movie that felt like it had one great movie and one mediocre one mashed into one dragging movie.