Christoph Waltz as Dr Schultz and Jamie Foxx as Django in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained
Published: 17 January, 2013
by DAN CARRIER
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Rating: 3 Out Of 5 Stars
THIS film has caused anger in the US. Director Quentin Tarantino has been accused of racism and of a flippant approach to the Holocaust of slavery.
It is hardly surprising that some find it distasteful, in a country where historical scars lasted well into the 1960s, and is now struggling with an economic war that has been particularly pronounced on African-Americans.
Armed with this knowledge, it is hard to watch this contemporary Spaghetti Western-style story with a neutral eye. Tarantino has tried to make a swashbuckling revenge film, but, as usual, he has approached it with a worrying lack of tact and subtlety.
Django (Jamie Foxx) appears on our screen as he is being marched with shackles around his ankles by two slave traders. Dr Schultz (Christoph Waltz) trots up and, in the flash of a gun, sets Django free. It appears this slave can help Schultz identify three brothers, wanted for murder – and, as a man earning his cash through bounty hunting, he needs Django to point them out before he claims the money for their bloodied corpses.
Django reveals that his wife has been sold to a slave trader called Candie (Leonardo Di Caprio) and the pair hook up to be a deadly duo, planning to earn money killing for the state while tracking down Django’s wife and freeing her from her slavery.
What unfolds is typically violent Tarantino fare, with attempts made at entertaining through the usual verbal banter and wisecracks, and a super soundtrack.
Foxx as Django is excellent, even if the best lines are given to his partner, Dr Schultz. Django is perfectly styled. His silhouette is superb – a cardboard cutout of the original Spag-West hero, Clint Eastwood.
This is also pure pop – a film made using a Roy Lichtenstein approach. The colours are saturated, the action completely over the top. It’s comic book stuff and at times you can’t help but think Tarantino has seen just how much he can get away with.
But below the surface throughout is the fear that he will overstep the mark. And, as ever, Tarantino creates a film full of interesting male characters but shows he still can’t write a female role. Furthermore, the less said of Samuel L Jackson’s appearance as an “Uncle Tom”-style figure serving his slave-owning master the better – it was grotesque.
But regardless of whether or not this is an offensive film, the idea of revenge, which is at the heart of this story, is potent. Tarantino did this in his last outing, Inglorious Basterds, where he rewrote history by having Hitler and his henchman burned to death in a cinema.
Django doesn’t have the leap of imagination Inglorious Basterds went for, and to make it more distasteful, there are some things that were simply unnecessary: to have the N-word repeatedly used is not necessary for historical accuracy. This is a fantasy shoot-’em-up, not a bio-pic of a slave fighting for freedom.